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Bourbon Island 1730 by Lewis Trondheim

Bourbon Island 1730

by Lewis Trondheim, Appollo (Author)

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"Don't be silly, Raphael, there are no more pirates. And in any event there is no way you'd be able to drink enough rum to follow one of their conversations."

Set on Bourbon Island, now known as Réunion and one of the few countries left where my reading has not already taken me. An ornithologist is searching for the dodo bird (was there ever any on Bourbon Island?), where there are the aforementioned pirates, colonists, slavery, and terrorists. Fictionalized history, humorous in a way, detailed art, but only mildly entertaining. This might be enjoyed more by someone who appreciates graphic novels more than I do. ( )
  VivienneR | Sep 24, 2016 |
Pirates, colonies, and slavery. Arrrgh, it’s really not all that funny. Based on the history of La Réunion island, Bourbon Island 1730 is a graphic novel co-written and illustrated by the great French novelist Lewis Trondheim. Originally uninhabited, Reunion Island (at times called Bourbon Island) was settled by the French in 1640 and is still part of France.

The theme is Freedom—the pursuit of it and the failure to find it. Pirates became civilized through amnesty, and yet the civilized looked just as ugly as the former plunderers did. Better personal hygiene, sure, but just as dirty inside. The former pirates became either rich slave owners or drunks mourning their former freebooting days. French naturalists visited the island and shot hundred of birds to catalog them. Slaves escaped and formed their own communities but were hunted like animals. The French government set up a colony on an island with no natives, but by importing slaves they quickly create a colonized state.

Were “freebooters” free? They were in many cases, murderers, rapists and kidnappers so they didn’t necessarily use their freedom for anything other than selfish pursuits. One might argue they plundered to survive, but clearly they weren’t subscribers to Simple magazine. Freedom does not necessarily have to equate to compassion. In this novel, the freebooters are only idolized by the naïve, but they can be contrasted with the various Governments of the time, which put their own legal imprimatur on the murder, rape and kidnapping of slaves. And certainly in a state of war, the Governments plundered their enemies. Many pirates were former slaves to add further complexity to the equation. They were mainly preying upon official ships of the governments that enslaved them (as well as Arab ships, which were often crewed with slaves). Neither side had strong moral ground to stand on and, both were cultural products of their times. Yet, the pirates did have a level of freedom not experienced by the bourgeoisie land-owner.

It’s interesting to consider these themes in the context of the “War on Terror.” Terrorists who commit murder are despicable and immoral. But so is the government that falsifies the evidence for a war responsible for the deaths of many.

Bourbon Island 1730 touches on the possibly apocryphal stories of a Pirate republic called Libertalia in Madagascar. It was a utopian community set up as a place for pirates to retire in peace (and freedom). But there is some evidence this was a fiction planted by Daniel Defoe in an otherwise fairly accurate history of pirates. Perhaps his wishful thinking, Libertalia was supposedly destroyed by a Malagasy native tribe from the interior of the island, ending the pirates’ attempts to find a peaceful freedom instead of a warring freedom.

I knew nothing about Reunion Island before I read this. The history is quite fascinating, and I found this fictionalized account of one brief period of that history to be an honest and intriguing exploration of pirates and the sad, casual exploitation of slaves by the French colonies.
( )
  David_David_Katzman | Nov 26, 2013 |
For the most part I did enjoy the novel, the characters were varied and interesting, and the story weaves in some nice interesting historical information, and it was most certainly an entertaining read. But, when the it was all over and done and the final page turned (at least of the novel itself). Something was missing. Looking back, nothing much seemed to happen in it, some of the plot threads promised more than they delivered.

This was made up for a little bit by the appendix at the end, which explains some of the facts around which the story is based, and these really did add something to the experience.

But, I was still left with the feeling, that whilst what was there was excellent, it could have been even better.

Read and comment on my full review at:
http://www.bartsbookshelf.co.uk/2009/03/25/bourbon-island-1730-by-appollo-lewis-... ( )
  bart154ce | Mar 30, 2009 |
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Lewis Trondheimprimary authorall editionscalculated
AppolloAuthormain authorall editionsconfirmed
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"And there young man, what do you sea?"
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On Bourbon Island off the coast of Madagascar, a French ornithologist and his assistant are caught up in an adventure involving slavery, colonialism, and the last days of the great pirates.

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