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Serpent in Paradise: Among the People of the Bounty
Pitcairn Island, a tiny speck in the South Pacific 3000 miles from the nearest landmass, has had an enduring hold over the imaginations of countless people. The final refuge of the infamous Bounty mutineers, the island holds out the promise of paradise: three square miles of tropical beauty, inhabited by only 37 people.Acclaimed British travel writer and...
Pitcairn Island, a tiny speck in the South Pacific 3000 miles from the nearest landmass, has had an enduring hold over the imaginations of countless people. The final refuge of the infamous Bounty mutineers, the island holds out the promise of paradise: three square miles of tropical beauty, inhabited by only 37 people.Acclaimed British travel writer and journalist Dea Birkett, obsessed both by the island's enduring image as a secluded Eden, and by the Bounty legend, traveled across the Pacific in a cargo ship and became one of the very few outsiders permitted to land on Pitcairn. Longing to fit in with the islanders, Birkett lived with a Pitcairner family for five months. Initially welcoming, the islanders gradually began to whisper rumors about Birkett, to mount indirect attacks on her character. As she came to realize that being a Pitcairner means more than climbing cliffs and weaving baskets, Birkett saw the darker face of paradise: Pitcairners sacrifice their individuality to the good of the group; with no way to evade their neighbors' watchful eyes, the islanders have no privacy. The island paradise became at last a kind of prison. An engrossing narrative, Serpent in Paradise is an accomplished piece of travel writing about life in one of the world's most unusual places. It is also a deeper examination of the place Pitcairn Island in particular occupies in many imaginations, of the lure of the mythical island paradise, and finally at the dark side of this myth.
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