21 July 2018

The Unbinding of Mary Reade - Review

The Unbinding of Mary Reade
by Miriam McNamara

What they say: 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.

I received a copy in exchange for an honest review!

What I say: The Unbinding of Mary Reade is full of forbidden YA romance, mistaken identities and pirates galore! 

In a Twelfth Night meets As You Like It pirate twist we meet Mary Reade who has been living a double life. She has spent most of her time disguised as her brother Mark. The story is told across timelines with flashbacks to her past. In the present we meet her working on board a ship as it is attacked by pirates. Dressed as Mark, Mary finds herself spared by the infamous pirate captain, Calico Jack Rackham, and his pirate girlfriend Anne Bonny. I was a big fan of the TV show Black Sails so already had an image of how these two pirates should be and look, but it was interesting to see them portrayed in a very different manner through Mary's teenage eyes.

The representation of gender identity is handled very tactfully. I loved Mary as Mark. I felt so bad for her whenever she was forced to dress as Mary again. Her pain and confusion is palpable - I really empathised with the struggle even though it's not something I've experienced myself.

Where so many other have failed The Unbinding of Mary Reade takes a positive approach to bisexuality.  BUT there is a lot of confusion with some elements including the blatant homophobia and sexism demonstrated, particularly by the male characters in England. This shows the unfortunate attitudes of the time. 

I liked Mary even with her incessant pursuit of the idolised version of Nat. I wanted her to be happy with she is and to get a HEA. Where I liked Mary wasn't won over by either Anne or Jack. This was surprising considering how much I loved them in Black Sails. Jack is borderline abusive to Anne and considering what a badass Anne Bonny was she definitely takes a lot more nonsense from him than I was expecting. Perhaps this too was down to the position of women at the time in the 1700s?!

The action itself is kinda slow. A LOT of the focus is on the romance, but I wanted more time spent focusing on a being a pirate and life at sea. Mostly I wanted Anne to be the badass I was expecting! I liked the ending and the message of the book is good. I think I just wanted a quicker pace and more chemistry between Mary and Anne.

3 Stars in my Sky!


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