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Seventeen years after the mutiny on the Bounty, Governor-elect William Bligh sets sail for New South Wales accompanied by his daughter Mary, the narrator of this extraordinary shipboard tale.

A cultured young Englishwoman, Mary is a complete novice at sea. She is entirely unprepared for life on the convoy that sets sail from Portsmouth in 1806: for the unfamiliar rituals, the great emptiness of the ocean, the terrifying storms, the bedazzling natural wonders. Most troubling of all is the bizarre quarrel between her father and the captain of the convoy, Joseph Short, a man whose sensitivities are almost a match for William Bligh's and whose temper brings the voyagers to the brink of catastrophe.

Mary's witty journal invites us beyond the quarterdeck rivalries into the private world of the Blighs: their family and friends, and the tragedies and failings of a living legend embarking on his last great command.

Peter Cochrane is an award-winning historian whose accolades include the inaugural Prime Minister's Prize for Australian History. In Governor Bligh and the Short Man he proves himself to be as adept a writer of fiction as he is of history.

'His characterisation of Mary is perfect and full of drama.' Troy Lennon, Daily Telegraph

'Compelling' Liam Davison, Weekend Australian

'[Cochrane] preserves much of the restraint and decorum of the times, while allowing us to glimpse those aspects of life that people of that period, and to a lesser extent our own, did not talk about publicly ... Anyone interested in this formative period in Australian history will want to read [this book].' Saturday Age

Reviews

Cochrane takes advantage of the closed and claustrophobic world of the voyage for full dramatic effect ... There is an absurd sort of humour about the narration as the stand-off between the two men escalates and their actions border on the ludicrous ... Beneath the humour, though, runs the pathos of a devoted daughter witnessing the unravelling of a beloved father.

Liam Davison, Weekend Australian

Anyone interested in this formative period in Australian history will want to read this book.

Simon Caterson, The Saturday Age

Delightful ... fascinating.

Elaine Fry, Weekend West

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Formats & editions

  • Paperback

    9780143569633

    April 24, 2013

    Penguin

    144 pages

    RRP $9.99

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Awards and Recognition

  • Waverley Library Award for Literature
    2013
    Longlisted
    Best Book

Also by Peter Cochrane