Book Reviews

Bonny & Read – Julie Walker

*Thank you to Hodder & Stoughton and Netgalley for providing an advance reader copy. This does not affect my review in any way*

Bonny & Read is out on 4th August 2022

A month or two ago, I decided to sign up to Netgalley again, but with the intention of being sensible and only requesting small numbers of books to keep it manageable. While idly browsing one day, I found Bonny & Read, and in the spirit of trying to broaden my reading horizons, I requested an arc and was fortunate to be accepted.

How pretty is this cover? The blue, gold and cream look so good


Rebels. Pirates. Women. 

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…

Content warnings:

Injury, death, death in childbirth, stillbirth

My thoughts:

I went into this with very few expectations and not really knowing a lot about it. To be fair, the first time I’d heard of this was when I was browsing Netgalley! Having recently read R.J Barker’s The Bone Ships, I was in the mood for more sea-faring adventures; the fact that this was set during the 1700s and in an era I don’t know much about meant I ended up hitting request fairly quickly!

So, Bonny & Read then. I’ll be honest, I did read this in a day, but I’m still in two minds about how much I enjoyed this. I think for this to be coherent, I’m going to split this into the things I did like and the things I wished could have been developed more.

The things I did like:

  • I found both characters’ storylines interesting and I liked the exploration of their life before they both became pirates
  • I really liked the friendship between Anne and Mary, especially in such a male dominated space
  • I enjoyed the historical backdrop and I have to admit, I now want to go and find some books on the Golden Era of Piracy and the pirates who ruled the seas at that time.

Things that I wished had been developed a bit more:

  • While I liked the friendship between Anne and Mary, I wished there had been more quiet moments between the two women to really showcase and develop the friendship. Parts of it felt a bit rushed
  • My one quibble with the before they became pirates sections is that Anne’s section is a lot shorter than Mary’s – I wished Anne’s had been a bit longer, just because I was curious about how and why she ended up marrying James Bonny
  • I also had a slight issue with the pacing – the first and last sections of the book were pretty fast paced, but the middle did drag a bit

On the whole, I’m very much on the fence with this one and I do wonder if it is one that I would get more out of after doing some background reading into the historical context. In terms of pushing myself out of my comfort reading zone, I would say that this was a good choice and I did enjoy elements of this.

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