Book Review: Bonny and Read

Julie Walker ~ Bonny and Read


Caribbean, 1720. Two extraordinary women are on the run – from their pasts, from the British Navy and the threat of execution, and from the destiny that fate has written for them.

Plantation owner’s daughter, runaway wife, pirate – Anne Bonny has forged her own story in a man’s world. But when she is involved in the capture of a British merchant ship, she is amazed to find another woman amongst the crew, with a history as unconventional as her own. Dressed as a boy from childhood, Mary Read has been a soldier, a sailor, a widow – but never a woman in charge of her own destiny.

As their exhilarating, tumultuous exploits find fame, the ballad of Bonny and Read is sung from shore to shore – but when you swim against the tide of history, freedom is a dangerous thing…


I’ve always been fascinated by the tales of Anne Bonny and Mary Read and this reimagining was everything I was hoping for. Not only does it show the women behind the notoriety, it gives them a voice and brings them to life.

We explore the early lives of Anne and Mary, seeing why their family situation led to their decisions to leave and run away to sea. There is less brutality and evil, and more circumstance. Yet it is not overdone and feels believable; whilst we pity them at times, we also witness the violence and thirst for blood later on. People can be more than one thing and why can someone not be a wife and a pirate?

The relationship between the two women feels genuine and isn’t dramatic or contrived. They may be different, but together they form a camaraderie that only women can. Is it a begrudging respect? Or a profound understanding? There could perhaps have been more action; despite the maternal instincts, these two women were still ruthless mercenaries!

The ending of this book provides a little bit of hope, as well as tragedy. The final situations of the two women may not be happy, but there is closure of sorts. Whilst one was perhaps happier during her life, the other was offered a second chance.

Poignant, rich and evocative, this book provides an excellent version of the events of these Pirate Queens.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Thanks to Hodder & Stoughton for my copy. Opinions my own.

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