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Pirate Queens (Kindle)

The Lives of Anne Bonny & Mary Read

Maritime P&S History Women of History Biographies 18th Century

By Rebecca Alexandra Simon
Imprint: Pen & Sword History
File Size: 45.0 MB (.mobi)
Pages: 208
ISBN: 9781526791320
eBook Released: 13th June 2022

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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.

Just finished this remarkable book which tells us the story of two female pirates: Anne Bonny and Mary Read. Needless to say, it feels surprisingly modern.

Books like these don’t come around very often. This volume is thoroughly researched, yet it doesn’t inundate you with facts - they’re woven into a pacey thrilling narrative.

Highly recommend!

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Instagram, @natalieisahistorybuff

There is something about these two notorious pirate queens that continues to fascinate long after their deaths. Perhaps as they remain such enigmas, the image of their breasts bared as they headed into battle forever lingering in our minds when we think of them. Their hair blowing loose beneath their hats. It's such a powerful image. You can understand why they strived for a freer life upon the seas, why danger was a better choice than the drudgery of life for many women in the 1700s. ⁣

Women of the time had so little agency, so few rights, that to imagine Mary Read and Anne Bonny clambering upon a ship, choosing a life on the ocean is so deliciously rebellious. Whilst little is known about these women beyond their legend, Rebecca Alexandra Simon does an excellent job with the little texts available to piece together their lives, as they may have been. This book makes for fascinating read, and conjures a clear image of what life for these incredible women may have been like. It also features a small snippet about Anne's representation in a certain TV show.

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Instagram, @blottedinkbooks

Simon dedicates this book ‘to all of the forgotten women who forged their own lives on land and sea’ and I knew that this book was going to be for me. ⁣

It is a huge shame that pirate history for women is so little recorded, and that we don’t actually know the complete lifespan of both Mary and Anne but Simon does an incredible job of weaving fact into probable outcomes of areas that we aren’t sure about. ⁣

Both women used a male disguise to get themselves in a stable position in life. Which was not uncommon, Simon estimates that many Royal Navy soldiers could have actually been women in disguise. There were so many snippets of information like this in the book that really just opened my eyes to the possibilities and hardships and difficult decisions that women had to face just to survive in some circumstances. ⁣

Whilst being a pirate for us in our century sounds really cool, the reality was much harsher for both Mary & Anne who had little choice in where they ended up. Both came from troubled backgrounds and had to make their own way, and that they did. They were considered intimidating and strong-willed, and unladylike (which I adore). They became two of the most influential pirates of their time, but were sadly executed.⁣

Stories like this make me proud to be a woman and I am so glad that Simon wrote this book to celebrate/highlight who these women were and what they could have seen and experienced. ⁣

Five stars from me.

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Instagram, @letsgetreadical

Avoiding sensational speculations about their sexual orientation (unlike some authors!), Simon’s book has an aura of careful consideration, of presenting the facts and offering theories without ever claiming absolute knowledge. A fascinating look at two of the most enigmatic women in history.

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Instagram, @anotherbloodybook

This was a truly fascinating look at two female pirates, from the infancy to piracy trial. Simon is very open about what parts of their histories had likely been fictionalised and provides plenty of historical context and speculation as to their lives.

I really liked how everything was laid out and found the language both engaging and easy to understand and while some things were repeated it was to provide clarity.

I liked the separation of the characters at the start in order to delve into their lives pre piracy, and found the parallels drawn very interesting!

If you're wondering about the cover- Anne and Mary fought with bare breasts to seize power and to startle and frighten their opponents into submission.

Anne and Mary both sound like badass women in their own right, and I'm so glad to have learnt about them.

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Instagram, @books_with_kayleigh

Well this has been an interesting book from start to finish? Instantly I was attracted to this book, females in Piracy has been a little bit of a strange fascination of mine.

These are strong women and I have loved finding out what attracted them to this life.

This is informative and well written. I have found that this is such an interesting read that I haven’t wanted to put down.

I absolutely want to read more by Simon. These has been fascinating and a book I have strongly recommended to others as the topic is both interesting and intriguing.

These are two women I hadn’t heard of prior to reading this book. I have been so interested that I have devoured this is one sitting.

Whilst outside of my usual reading, I really have loved this book. This is a great read and I have to say a huge thank you to Pen & Sword for putting this on my Radar.

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Instagram, @littlemissbooklover87

I knew shockingly little about Anne Bonny and Mary Read before I read this book; however, the author writes with such knowledge and clarity that I now feel like I know the two incredibly well - especially as Simon writes the chapters in chronological order from childhood to adulthood, which made the book very enjoyable and easier to follow their history. Their lives were wild and full of adventure and you can’t help but read this information and feel inspired by what these two achieved during their lifetimes.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and I’d recommend it to anyone interested in pirates, gender nonconformity, or women’s history.

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Instagram, @tattooedliteraryresearcher

Their stories are fascinating – both how they grew up, escaped their dreary lives and how they survived in the male-dominated world of the sea during the Golden Age of Piracy. This book has used contemporary sources to be as accurate as possible, whilst also trying to fill in some gaps. It is speculative at times, but the author explains that this has been done to show how historians “navigate these murky waters”
.
A big focus of this book is the position of women in the 1700s. Their lives were dictated by their husbands or fathers, or from expectations and restrictions placed upon them. Anne and Mary threw off these shackles; they had agency, sexual freedom, social mobility and a sense control over their own lives. The author is not trying to romanticise these women and their deeds, but to explain why they found life on board a pirate ship to be a better and freer life, as opposed to the more restricted life expected of 18th Century women
.
It’s an excellent read, and worth your time. Especially if you’re a fan of pirates!

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Instagram, @mytreasureinbooks

In recent years, pirates have become rather glamourised, but they’ve always held a fascination for me. And yes, I was slightly obsessed with Pirates of the Caribbean when it came out!

Rebecca Alexandra Simon however is an actual expert and has taken on the daunting task of writing a biography for two female pirates.

Despite limited information (including sources that are likely fiction), Simon manages to weave an engaging story that is both rich and vivid.

Not only does the book look at Mary and Anne’s journey into piracy, it explores their later life, as well as women’s role in society.

There is some repetition and it is speculative, due to the lack of information available, but Simon has been thorough in her research and overall it’s a fantastic insight into two brave and unique women.

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Instagram, @paradise_library

Considering how little there is written about the lives of both of these women Simon does an amazing job of bringing them to life.
Written extremely accessibly, she takes you through the history of Anne and Mary, from their start in life to the end of their pirate adventures.

There is a lot of ambiguity around their lives, is the story we know fact or fiction? What actually happened to them in the end? Simon does not shy away from this either, she makes it clear that we don’t know much about these women. This gives them a fictional air that I think just makes them even more intriguing.

For all you pirate lovers out there this book is a must read!

“Anne Bonny and Mary Read, although they did not intend it, were female revolutionaries during a time when social advancement for women was barely achievable outside of folk tales.”

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Instagram, @thebookdiaryofmisshewlett

One aspect I really liked about this book was how it explored the idea that both Read and Bonny’s femininity was actually something which played a crucial role in their lives as pirates and soldiers, despite them choosing to enter into a male dominated world where females had no place. I also really enjoyed the chapter on why piracy may have appealed for women- exploring the idea of how even the access to literacy and the revolutionary printing press, ballads and the romanticised idea of adventure played a part. I don’t know why, but the story of Mary Read finding love in amongst her life as a solider also really stood out to me and I thinks it’s because the author has shown this juxtaposition of piracy as something dangerous and yet there was also definitely a romantic aspect to choosing this life. A life where they could be free from social constraints of the period.

I won’t give away any more spoilers but heartily recommend this swashbuckling history of two really fascinating women.

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Instagram, @historian_ellis

My knowledge of the history of pirates is pretty sparse. Any facts I've stored in my brain will have inevitably come from horrible histories, like many of my historical facts (being rude to my history degree here). So when I was asked to take part I said yes please, even more so when it's about two infamous female pirates!
Anne and Mary were sailing the seas during the height of the golden age of piracy in the 18th century and this looks at how these two women from various backgrounds came to be on a ship, weapon in hand, breasts bared, fighting for survival whilst the other crew hid away before being caught.
I dont really want to give too much away about their story because if what I've said hasn't interested you already, then I think you're mad and if it does interest you, this short and snappy book is waiting for you.

The 2 were really only active for two months in 1720 yet have managed to capture the attention of historians, readers, filmmakers etc ever since. Like many women of the time there isn't a huge amount of definitive information known about the pair. What the author does to fill in the gap is use examples and experiences of other women of the time to not only give us a potential answer to where Anne and Mary came from, but it also gives us a better look at life for women at the time from similar backgrounds. I really appreciated this take as I've read other nonfiction books where the author simply says 'I don't know' but then doesn't give us any interpretations for what the truth could be. I will also say as a nerdy aside I loved the big appendix at the back which shows us documents from the time, such as extracts from newspapers, the act for the suppression of pirates etc etc, theres some real gems waiting for after you finish.

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Instagram, @sarasreadingdairy

After the prologue, I was completely hooked 🪝 @piratebeckalex has written a book loaded with details and information, yet structured it in an accessible way that’s easy to follow and retain.
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Simon states: “Anne Bonny and Mary Read are only two out of countless women who have taken to the sea since the ancient world and those who came after them. This book serves not just as their biography, but also intends to give a voice to all of the female pirates - famous and forgotten - to put them into their rightful place alongside the thousands of men who terrorised the seas.” Simon completely succeeds in her aim: concentrating on these women contributes to the overall study of women pirates, many of whom were ‘lost’ to history, or had their reputations torn apart. This critical book tells their stories by their own histories and firmly puts their names down in piracy history.
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One particular quote I really liked was this one, which sums up this book perfectly: “Women were not attracted to piracy or pirate stories just because of how they presented a way of defying their social constraints; they painted pictures of heroics that sparked a desire for adventure.”
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If you’re interested in pirates, adventure, and women in history, you need to read this book! A truly fantastic book!

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Instagram, @gothicbookworm

After having binge watched Black Sails through lockdown, I was really keen to read more about Anne Bonny, so I jumped at the chance to be part of this tour.
I really enjoyed the story love way in which the author gives you what little information is known about the two women. She uses some of the few sources that survive about them along with a bit of investigative work to put together a biography of both women and their short lives. I really enjoyed reading about these two amazing women and would definitely recommend this book to anyone interested in women's history and social history.

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Instagram, @reading_with_leanne

Simon skilfully navigates the choppy waters of Bonny and Read's history to paint a full, technicolour picture of the fearsome pirates we hear about today. The book has an easy flow and is well-organised, and I promise you - you will not want to put it down. I highly recommend 'Pirate Queens' to anyone with an interest in piracy, and I believe it would even captivate those who don't.

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Instagram, @historicallywoman

Pirate Queens covers a range of absorbing subjects; piracy, true crime, history and romance. I would certainly recommend this book to any nonfiction reader. It is an mouth-watering cocktail of delicious historical detail spiked with thought-provoking analysis, certainly one to treasure.

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Instagram, @alice.huntsman

One thing I loved reading about was why a pirate’s life would have been an attractive option to women like Mary and Anne at this time in history. Simon’s writing feels reminiscent of Hallie Rubenhold in how she fleshes out these women, offering considered viewpoints on their possible emotions and motivations.

There’s no doubt that Anne and Mary were indeed revolutionaries of their time. The iconic image of them both baring their breasts through their open shirts in fierce battle is one that has endured throughout history, and one that will continue to inspire wonder and admiration for many future generations.


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Instagram, @quills_and_typewriters

Simon did such a fantastic job with this book, despite working from limited source materials, she still managed to fill in the gaps by giving us different known theories and conflicting information, and when in conjunction with the facts it gives us a most likely scenario. The author is clear from the start that most of Anne and Mary’s story is speculative, therefore you might expect the book to feel disjointed, but it doesn’t, it flows really well. Simon expertly weaves everything together to give us a joint biography that may be the closest we ever get to the real Anne Bonny and Mary Read, the terrifying female pirates who were as feared as their male crew mates.

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Instagram, @historyart10

Pirate Queens is an incredibly compelling book that truly shines a light on Simon's subject matter. From the first page to the last, you feel Anne Bonny and Mary Read being pulled up from the legends with a new sense of appreciation, and of course, the excitement and danger that always followed them.

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Instagram, @historic_chronicles

Finally, more attention to the women pirates who were a part of history! This was a unique, interesting read. I would especially like this on audiobook, but it is nice to be able to go back to parts I read before.
This is well researched and I really enjoyed reading! I usually do not go for pirate biographies, but was interested in some that weren't the normal Blackbeard of Captain Cook. Glad for Pirate Queens!

NetGalley, Vanessa Stoner

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.

NetGalley, Frankie ~ Chicks, Rogues and Scandals

This month's History Revealed magazine also had an article about Anne Bonny and Mary Read - these were two larger-than life women who dominated the world of piracy for several years. An absolutely fascinating account of the real lives of these two amazing women.

Books Monthly

What an absolute delight!! Dr. Simon triumphantly restores history's most notorious female pirates to their rightful place in the spotlight. Chock full of dazzling anecdotes and top-notch research, this scholarly work reads like a gripping novel. Set sail with Anne and Mary-you won't regret it.

Laura Sook Duncombe, author of 'Pirate Women'

When pirates come up it always pricks my interest mainly because I live in the area where another pirate is said to have come from, Barti Duu (or in English, Black Bart) and my only problem really with pirates is the lack of knowledge, records or understanding we have about them. But as the author has a highly recommended knowledge and background in pirates and their lives, I found it safe to say that although a 100% knowledge of these two might not be available, the author has a solid background in the subject.

This book looks at the lives and ventures of these two female pirates, and it was a really good read and very informative throughout. I think the author Simon has done a good job based on the information available, it was quite entertaining and I would actually like to learn more about other pirates now too. I would recommend this book, the author has done a great job.

Read the full review here

The History Fella

Pirates have always been close to my heart, and I do love to read books about them – fiction and non-fiction. Therefore, I was delighted to see this book coming out from Pen & Sword.

Pirate Queens is a hypothetical biography of two infamous pirates, who were more likely famous due to the fact that they were women. The story is hypothetical because there is not a lot actually known about them. What the author has done here is collect together what is known, added to it some likely scenarios using real lives at the time as a basis, and hypothesised the missing bits in between.

The best bits for me were all things pirate. I didn't care that they were women, I was simply interested in their likely stories because they were pirates. I liked the mix of fact and fiction, and I liked the pictures. I was surprised that these two women were only pirates for two months. But then, pirates did have a very short life expectancy.

NetGalley, Diane Wordsworth

This is a wonderful book that gives you fascinating insight into female pirates. I grew up in an area that historically had strong links with piracy so I was delighted to read this. The writing is enjoyable and not too dense, it's amusing to read, and I would recommend this to others.

NetGalley, Joe M

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I'm trepidatious when I start history related books because some authors have joyless, buzzkill writing styles. I'm relieved to say that this book was pretty decent. To those that have followed my reading habits in the past you'll already know I love things Pirate-related. This book feels like a conversation amongst friends. Or a well-done interview. The information, or lack of information, pertaining to Anne and Mary was casually presented in an easily digestable way. The author attempts to fill in the gaps in an educated manner. When there's discussion about Pirates, there's always the same things being talked about. After awhile, what is enticing about them wears off. What the author manages to do here is bring life back to these people. No longer are they names on pages. They felt tangible. Fresh, real. Exciting.

NetGalley, Alexander McCue

This was a really impressive read! I can’t believe I have never heard of Anne and Mary before.
Simon does a wonderful job of exploring not only the lives of these women, but the societal norms and beliefs at the time.
I loved the dedication, “Dedicated to all of the forgotten women who forged their own lives on land and sea.”. As a woman currently studying for a history degree, I find studying the lives of women extremely interesting. For years the subject has ignored women and the depths of their character and I am so glad that historians (especially female historians) are pushing to research and write about these forgotten legacies.
Really recommend this book to anybody with an interest in Pirates, lesser-known stories or women who break the societal code!

NetGalley, Ruby Redfern

This book was an excellent overview of everything we know about Anne Bonny and Mary Read. I’ve heard bits and pieces over the years about these two women, but never the complete story, or at least as complete as we can get it. The author is upfront in saying that some of the information, especially about Anne and Mary’s past, is largely theoretical and can’t be confirmed. The text was easy to read and very interesting, though some parts seemed to be repetitive or contradictory to other parts. But overall I enjoyed learning lot only about these two historical figures but also piracy in general. I’m sure I will use it in future writing projects.

NetGalley, Elizabeth L

This book explores the lives of two of the most famous and, perhaps, infamous, women pirates in history: Anne Bonny and Mary Read. Alas, there is a lot of information that is not known. Though Bonny and Read’s history has been more documented than most because of the court records produced for their trials.

Simon has created scenarios, based on research of the lives of women at this time, of what their stories might have been like, the circumstances of their birth, childhood, etc. to fill the gaps for the information that is not provided in court records and other sources. Simon also explores the bias and messages that male writers expressed in the accounting of these women’s stories. She attempts to put these two women’s lives in context and express the actions they took to take control of their lives in a time when women’s lives were very restricted and constrained.

It is a very interesting book. I only knew the bare facts of these women’s lives and it is astonishing they made such an impact for the short time they were actually pirates, only a few months... It is well written. It provides a part of the picture of pirates that is usually overlooked. Because, there may not have been many women pirates, there were some and other women who lived on ships. Overall, it is definitely worth a read.

NetGalley, Juliane Silver

This is the first full-length biography of Anne Bonny and Mary Read. Rebecca Simon is a historian and a world-leading expert on pirates, their lives and their roles in colonies and communities.

In ‘Pirate Queens’ she presents details of their backgrounds, their brief careers as pirates and their legacy that has continued for 300 years, including literature and even television series.

She is open about the fact that the biographical information about the women contained in
Captain Charles Johnson’s 1724 ‘A General History of the Pyrates’, was likely fictionalised. She seeks to determine how much was fact and how much was fiction while presenting what is known to be true from primary historical sources. Simon also examines the social context of women in the early eighteenth century.

Having recently read Daniel Defoe’s ‘Moll Flanders’ (1722) I was pleased that Simon noted the similarities between Moll’s fictional biography and the information contained in Johnson’s work on Bonny and Read. There has been claims that Captain Johnson was a pen-name of Defoe, though this is disputed.

Overall, I found ‘Pirate Queens’ fascinating and it proved very readable. It also contains the kind of supplemental material that I expect in a serious work of nonfiction: appendixes of historical documents, including the record of ‘The Tryal of Jack Rackham and Other Pyrates’, notes for each chapter, a bibliography of primary, secondary, and web sources and an index.

NetGalley, Vivienne O'Regan

This book was a thoroughly interesting read, it combined many of my favourite genres and themes in books; History and female experiences. Add in the fact that the Pirates of the Caribbean movies were released in my early teens (and I was obsessed) and I was instantly sold on this title. From the opening chapters of this book, it gives historical context to the nature of female pirates, from the ancient world, through to our books personalities of focus; Anne and Mary (Though it would have been nice to have a brief nod to another incredibly successful female pirate Ching Shih). From these beginning chapters, the audience is firmly engaged in the subject matter, without assumed prior knowledge and without patronising overtones. It also takes care to acknowledge the primary sources used to inform the biographies in the book, following the conventions of a historical text and the issues of accuracy and reliability evident in these sources. The author is very clear and upfront about how they have had to speculate and hypothesise to fill some of the gaps in the historical narrative in order to present a clear and coherent set of biographies.
The text is written in an engaging format which weaves facts into an engaging account, instead of a dry series of dates and facts. It was formatted in a user friendly manner with chapters of a decent size that were not overly intimidating (as some history and non-fiction books can be)...
Overall, this was an informative and interesting read that I recommend to anyone with an interest in piracy in the 18th Century, or the experiences of women in History. Thanks NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review this book!

NetGalley, Em Bidd

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I have always been a fan of the stories of Anne Bonny and Mary Read. This account makes in obvious how many of those retellings we're based on fiction. Which is frustrating, because as the account shows, the history we can find is fascinating. Both woman are portrayed through historical records to be intelligent, vibrant, and charismatic.
I greatly enjoyed the read.

NetGalley, Wolf Kershner

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I remember first reading about Anne Bonny and Mary Read in A General History of the Pyrates by maybe Daniel Defoe. I'm glad to see someone take the time to delve into the history and backgrounds of these two unique women pirates and I was happy to learn so much more about them.

NetGalley, Herman Rocha

I have always known the names Anne Bonny and Mary Read, but I really didn't know much beyond the fact that they were female pirates. This book was a great background and history of the available information around them and I liked that the author made clear areas that were speculation and potential biases from the historians and works this one pulls from. Overall an enjoyable read that I learned a lot from!

NetGalley, Lauren B

I really enjoyed reading this book as I have always had a slight fascination with pirates and especially women pirates. I liked the writing style it was easy to read with a good flow and didn't feel to textbooky as some non fiction can... I would definitely read more by the author.

NetGalley, Aria Harlow

Featured in 'Your essential guide to The Golden Age of Piracy'

History Revealed

About Rebecca Alexandra Simon

Rebecca Simon is a world-leading expert about pirates, their lives and their roles in colonies and communities. She earned her PhD at King’s College London, where she wrote a thesis about public executions of pirates and the struggle of British supremacy in the seventeenth and eighteenth-century Atlantic world. Her work has appeared in the Journal of Maritime HistoryHistory Today and BBC History Revealed. Her first book, Why We Love Pirates: The Hunt for Captain Kidd and How He Changed Piracy Forever was published in 2020. Rebecca is a sought-after expert and has been interviewed for television programmes for the BBC, History Channel and Netflix and on podcasts such as History ExtraHistory Hit and You’re Dead to Me. Rebecca currently writes and teaches in Los Angeles.

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