Jacqueline Church Simonds,
Captain Mary, Buccaneer
(Beagle Bay, 2000)

Captain Mary, Buccaneer is not about Mary Read, one half of the fierce female pirate duo of Read and Bonney. But it's plain to see that author Jacqueline Church Simonds based much of her novel on those characters, a fact she admits in a brief historical note at the beginning.

Anyone who has read histories and historical fictions of Bonney and Read might find a little too much of them in Simonds' Captain Mary, which detracts significantly from the originality of this novel. Captain Mary ran away from plantation life in the American colonies with a lover; she left him after he turned snitch and hooked up with a pirate, who later drank and gambled with his crew below decks when a naval vessel attacked, leaving Mary to fight nearly alone against tremendous odds; once captured, he is hanged along with the crew, while she "pleads her belly" (pregnancy) and her sentence is deferred.

All of that comes straight from the bonny life of Bonney.

The remainder of the book is a series of unprecedented successes at sea and a succession of personal calamities, along with a great deal of detail regarding Mary's many and varied loves. I suppose I would have enjoyed the book more if I found the protagonist likable -- or even vaguely sympathetic -- but she treats everyone but her captives badly and then seems surprised when they turn against her. It might have been easier to pity Mary if she didn't spend quite so much time pitying herself.

This is by no means a terrible book. I quite enjoyed it in places. But there are plenty of pirate books I'd encourage readers to try first.

review by
Tom Knapp

24 May 2008

Agree? Disagree?
Send us your opinions!

what's new