Review Written By
Karen Chisholm

I confess that my knowledge of the history of Pitcairn was sketchy to say the least.  I hope I knew slightly more of the history of the place than would have been gleaned from movies about the Bounty, but certainly I knew close enough to nothing about how the community was faring in the current day world, how it functioned for all those years, the nature of the life on Pitcairn, the difficulties in getting onto and off the island and so on.  I remember reports of the child rape trials that were conducted at the time, but again, my knowledge was minimal, so this book came as an absolute revelation.  

PITCAIRN was written by one of the few journalists allowed to live on the island during the conduct of the trials, with a number of defendants still residing on the island at the time they were charged with multiple child rape / sexual abuse offences.  The book covers the trials themselves as well as life on Pitcairn during that time in a lot of detail.  It also discusses many of the events that led to the placing of charges, as well as, much later in the book, providing some attempt at analysis of how on earth a community in a "tropical paradise" ended up with such a skewed moral compass.

PITCAIRN gives you an astounding picture of a small, enclosed world that has developed on a small island, borderline inaccessible to the outside world.  The nature of the society on the island is a very strange combination of a feudal hierarchy, based on the family that you belong to, complicated by an interdependence on each other that obviously causes considerable tensions in a place where the outside world has had very little effect or more than a passing interest for many many years.  A colony of Britain, Pitcairn was in some ways completely neglected, and in others an absolute paradise for its residents - particularly if you "belonged" to the controlling groups.  They led a semi-self sufficient lifestyle, bolstered by government money and tourism dollars.  Getting on and off the island was only possible via the longboats - run by the men of the island.  The same men who had been accused of systematic and brutal child abuse.  Whilst initial protestations of a Polynesian lifestyle were used to attempt to explain away the abuse that had occurred, this also created tensions within and without the community.  And away from the island itself, within the ex-pat community and in amongst a large community of supporters of the island and the people - the existence of the abuse was explained, denied, decried.  

PITCAIRN is an absorbing book - it covers all of the events that are reported in a relatively clinical manner, although the author obviously found the treatment that she and other reporters were subjected to disappointing and even distressing.  Ultimately what the book is going to give you is a real feeling of what it is like to live in a completely enclosed community, and the impact that has on human relationships.  What the book doesn't - and probably can't do - is explain how on earth this situation was ever allowed to continue for as long as it did.

Year of Publication

Pitcairn Island, remote and wild, home to descendants of the Bounty, a South Pacific Shangri-la, shrouded in myth...

But also, as the world would discover, a place of sinister secrets.

In 2000, police descended on the British colony to investigate disturbing reports of rape. What they discovered was a shocking trail of child abuse dating back generations. Scarcely a man was untainted by the allegations, and barely a girl had escaped, yet most residents feigned ignorance or claimed it was their ′way of life′.

The ensuing trials would tear the tiny community of just 47 people apart, pitting neighbour against neighbour and reopening long-festering wounds.

One of only six journalists to gain access to the island, Kathy Marks lived on Pitcairn during the trials and then followed the legal and human saga to its conclusion in 2007. In this riveting account, she uncovers a society gone badly astray, leaving lives shattered and codes broken: a paradise truly lost.

Add new comment

This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.