Wayward Voyage by Anna M Holmes – a vibrant tale of a female pirate in life on the edge

Wayward Voyage by Anna M Holmes

Anne Bonny never got over a voyage to the new world as a child. A wild child who longed to climb the highest mask, fight with any weapon, live for the moment, she was never meant to be a lady of refinement. In this substantial historical novel Holmes gives us a version of one of the most famous female pirates of all time. Set in the early years of the eighteenth century, Anne is first seen as a child on board the William and Mary, a ship taking her and her parents to a new life in a settlement called Charles Town. This is the excitement she longs for, seemingly heedless of danger and not much concerned with those around her, it sets the scene for a life of trying to out ride, out fight men and generally press the boundaries of freedom. In a settled predictable setting she does not do well, when she is endangered she fights back, and those around her are shocked at her ways.

This book brings to life the struggles of colonies to become established, the casual acceptance of slavery, the sheer brutality of a life on the edge. After the death of her mother Anne is forced to accept that life is unpredictable, and can be perilous especially for women, so she decides to live it to the full. Holmes has created a character that has her faults and who can let down those who she loves, but who is full of life. Other characters, especially ‘Calico Jack’ Rackham, take risks alongside her, as well as a soldier turned sailor with a secret to hide. Dedicated “To all women who are adventurous at heart and in deed”, this is a vividly written novel of life on shore and at sea as colonial life emerges in the Americas. Intense and powerful, it is a description of life and death at the extremes. I was very pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this intriguing novel.

Anne grows up with her father and younger brother in rural isolation, with slaves to work the land, hired hands and passing traders for company. The only other child of her age in the area is Richard, son of slightly more prosperous settlers, and who allows her to practice fighting with him until they grow into self conscious teenagers. She is obsessed with her horse Shotek, and soon becomes aware of the perils that lie outside her father’s settlement. When she decides to escape she finds herself in a disorderly colony dominated by pirates, both active and temporarily reformed, and realizes that there is more than one way to live, even when she is condemned by other women. The attractions of the brave and charming Jack soon make her doubt her established way of life, and then her adventures become even more dangerous for her and those around her.

This book is obviously the product of immense research and presents a realistic picture on life in a ramshackle colony and aboard various ships. Not that there are dry descriptions of the setting; but rather the talk and actions of the characters bring to vibrant existence the slender hold on life of those on land, and the discomfort and trials of living on board the ships of the day.  Anne is a fantastic character, courageous and reckless, dissatisfied with the role allotted to women of the time, determined to make the most of life. Holmes has recreated a world of uncertainty and danger, excitement and adventure, and this book is infused with the sense of a vibrant character determined to take on that world.