The Unbinding of Mary Reade by Miriam McNamara ~ 336 pages ~ published 6/19/18 by Sky Pony Press
A clever, romantic novel based on the true story of a girl who disguised herself as a boy to sail with the infamous pirates Anne Bonny and Calico Jack—and fell in love with Anne Bonny.
There’s no place for a girl in Mary’s world. Not in the home of her mum, desperately drunk and poor. Not in the household of her wealthy granny, where no girl can be named an heir. And certainly not in the arms of Nat, her childhood love who never knew her for who she was. As a sailor aboard a Caribbean merchant ship, Mary’s livelihood—and her safety—depends on her ability to disguise her gender.
At least, that’s what she thinks is true. But then pirates attack the ship, and in the midst of the gang of cutthroats, Mary spots something she never could have imagined: a girl pirate.
The sight of a girl standing unafraid upon the deck, gun and sword in hand, changes everything. In a split-second decision, Mary turns her gun on her own captain, earning herself the chance to join the account and become a pirate alongside Calico Jack and Anne Bonny.
For the first time, Mary has a shot at freedom. But imagining living as her true self is easier, it seems, than actually doing it. And when Mary finds herself falling for the captain’s mistress, she risks everything—her childhood love, her place among the crew, and even her life.
Breathlessly romantic and brilliantly subversive, The Unbinding of Mary Reade is sure to sweep readers off their feet and make their hearts soar.
What I Thought:
When I saw this book on NetGalley, I’ll be honest, the first thing that drew me in was the cover. I mean look at it! It is beautiful! But, then I read that it was about pirates and I was hooked! 😍
Overall, I enjoyed Mary’s story. It was very interesting to learn the origins of why she dressed as a man, Mark, and how that both helped and hindered her. I also enjoyed how McNamara explored the practical problems this might present: binding her breasts, trying to hide her period each month, learning how to pee standing up, etc. These are things that I think about a lot when I read a book where someone is posing as something/someone that they aren’t, so the fact that they were addressed in this novel was fun for me!
I also was a big fan of the love triangle that McNamara created between Mary, Nat and Anne. It was done in such a way that I really didn’t know which way the story was going to go, which is always fun. I also enjoyed Mary’s internal struggle over whether she should be attracted to Anne or not. It really was two-fold: should she live as a man or a woman, and therefore, should she be attracted to men or women. In a time where it was illegal and punishable by death to pose as the opposite gender, as well as to engage in a same-sex relationship, it was an incredibly intriguing story.
I really loved the overall story and message behind the book, however, I had to knock off a few stars. I, for some reason, had a hard time staying engaged with the book. The pacing wasn’t excellent. It jumps back and forth between the past and present quite often. I understood that this was the author’s way of giving us the relevant backstory to what was happening in the present-day part of the story, but it would pull me out of the flow and pacing of the story. It made me keep wanting to set the book down.
I gave The Unbinding of Mary Reade 3.5 STARS. I really liked Mary and her story, and I loved the attention to historical detail. It was a good book. I would certainly recommend it to anyone who enjoys pirates and LGBT literature.
**I received this book from NetGalley for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.**
Are you interested in learning more about this book? Check out the links below!
Do you like historical fiction? What about books about pirates? Have you ever read a historical LGBT book before? If so, what was it?! Let me know down in the comments!
Love and happy reading,