REVIEW: Pirate Queens – The Lives of Anne Bonny and Mary Read
July 14, 2022

Thank you to Pen & Sword for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

One of the reasons we enjoy pirate stories so much is that the lives of the individuals—even the most famous ones—are so different from the lives we ourselves lead. Their lives are shrouded in mystery while we post updates on social media. Their lives were exciting and deadly on a regular basis while most of us would probably say our days are very routine.

Most of the famous pirates we know anything about today had long and bloody careers—except for the two featured in this book by Dr. Alexandra Rebecca Simon: Anne Bonny and Mary Read. Although their careers in piracy only lasted about two months before their capture and arrest, they still stand out among the pirates we know of because of their sex and gender.

Using the best sources available and records from their court trial, Simon manages to cobble together an interesting life story for both these women. Even before they met, their lives included unique parallels that involved defying gender norms of the time, hinting at the fierce figures they would become later in life.

Simon discusses their lives through a historian’s lens as well as a feminist lens, exploring how these women would have lived, how they use their bodies for fighting and escaping execution as well as why these two women unintentionally became feminist heroes centuries after their deaths.

I will say that this book is unfortunately quite short. However, this is not necessarily a negative thing. When it comes to history books about women, you will often find that most of the book is made up of filler relating to the men in their lives or what politics were happening at the time. This book is focused, and to the point and I appreciate that. Their careers were short and, sadly, women who came from modest backgrounds during that time simply didn’t have much about their lives recorded.

I enjoyed this book very much and would recommend it to anyone looking to learn more about these feisty ladies of the sea.

Jillianne Hamilton is a history enthusiast and the author of The Spirited Mrs. Pringle (historical fiction), The Hobby Shop on Barnaby Street (historical romance), and The Lazy Historian’s Guide to the Wives of Henry VIII (non-fiction). Jill launched The Lazy Historian in 2015. She lives in Charlottetown on Canada’s beautiful east coast. Learn more.

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Hi, I'm Jillianne.

I'm a historical fiction writer, a lover of history, and a hoarder of books. I'm the author of The Spirited Mrs. Pringle, The Hobby Shop on Barnaby Street, and The Lazy Historian's Guide to the Wives of Henry VIII.

The Lazy Historian is a history blog featuring stories from the past with sass. With a focus on Western European and women's history, I delve into anything fascinating. Learn more.