I am delighted to be sharing my review of; Pirate Queens; The Lives of Anne Bonny & Mary Read by Rebecca Alexandra Simon. Firstly thank you to Pen and Sword Publishing for my advance copy via Netgalley.

Pirate Queens: The Lives of Anne Bonny & Mary Read

Pirate Queens: The Lives of Anne Bonny & Mary Read

Between August and October 1720, two female pirates named Anne Bonny and Mary Read terrorized the Caribbean in and around Jamaica. Despite their short career, they became two of the most notorious pirates during the height of the eighteenth-century Golden Age of Piracy. In a world dominated by men, they became infamous for their bravery, cruelty and unwavering determination to escape the social constraints placed on women during that time. Despite their infamy, mystery shrouds their lives before they became pirates. Their biographies were recorded in Captain Charles Johnson’s 1724 book, A General History of the Pyrates, depicting the two women as illegitimate women raised by men who, against insurmountable odds, crossed paths in Nassau and became pirates together. But how much is fact versus fiction?

This first full-length biography about Anne Bonny and Mary Read explores their intriguing backgrounds while examining the social context of women in their lifetime and their legacy in popular culture that exists to the present day. Using A General History of the Pyrates, early modern legal documents relating to women, their recorded public trial in The Tryal of Jack Rackham and Other Pyrates, newspapers and new, uncovered research, this book unravels the mysteries and legends surrounding their lives.

Review

I love this book, it’s entertaining and insightful.

I have seen so many books out there that are all about the male pirates that sailed the ‘seven’ seas and yet it is very little out there about the woman who took on the role, that is until now!

I had known about Anne Bonney and Mary Read before reading this, these two women are easily the most (in)famous of this small group of female pirates who were at the top of their game in the height of the pirate era. I wouldn’t call them heroines or anything, but they had huge amounts of pluck and courage to take on a man’s world as they did. I have watched so many documentaries about these two women so I thought I knew their stories, but this book really opened my eyes to how extraordinary these women were, they may have only had a few precious months at the top of the pirate world (after all pirates didn’t have a long life-span) but it was their backgrounds and the history of how they became so notorious that fascinated me, they were just two very ordinary women who chose to take up the sail. They both had very unconventional childhoods (which explains the unconventional women they became) both deciding at young ages that they could further in life or what they wanted by dressing as boys.

I loved that they both joined a pirate ship with non-other than Captain Jack Rackham otherwise known as ‘Calico Jack’, here they weren’t in their usual boys’ dress, but serving and sailing as women and now as esteemed pirates.

I have to applaud the huge amount of research that the author; Rebecca Alexandra Simon has done for this book, something I can imagine can’t have been easy especially as the historical records and information would have been limited, so bravo to the author for the immense amount of hard work put into this book.

The book is incredibly well-written, it’s insightful and knowledgeable, plus very easy to read (which is always a bonus). The author has brought Mary and Anne to life, she has documented their early lives and their careers as pirates, plus noting their hardships and how they became the ruthless pirate queens they became. They may not have reigned the seas for long, but their lives and exploits still entertain us today, we will never know ‘who’ they were but we can learn the facts and speculate.

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