The Chancellor and I have an annual tradition: Renaissance Faire about an hour away from our house. We cross state lines, but it’s a fun journey. Because we’ve done this for several years in our marriage, we’ve grown accustomed to a certain routine and highlights of the Faire: alongside fun food, we like to shop at independent vendors’ stands for games and books. The bookstore this year had a bunch of interesting selections, and I was torn between a few. The Chancellor went with Neil Gaiman’s Norse Mythology, and then I spotted a book that filled me with delight: Laura Sook Duncombe’s Pirate Women. If you know The Chancellor in person, you know that he is *obsessed* with pirates, and some of that has infected me by proxy. I thought it would be terrific to read a book about pirates who also happened to be women.
If you’re an academic, I think it’s fair to give you some advance warning: this is not by nature an academic monograph. So don’t be expecting footnotes and elaborate research. That said, if you are not an academic, you are far more likely to enjoy this book, because it’s just more approachable in scope and focus. In fact, this reminds me a lot of postmodern histories, where you have to take little-known narratives and historical accounts and piece something together that might make sense. We learn about a lot of women who took to the high seas and pirated their way to new worlds, survival, and financial security. It’s so engaging and a lot of fun.
Duncombe is a feminist, and you can see it in her loving treatment of the women who people her book. I certainly hope more academic study can emerge, as well as interest. I would love to see a movie about many of these women, as well. Duncombe’s chapter on the big-screen treatment of these women is fascinating, simply because Hollywood has declined to bring so many of these stories to screen. The way she discusses The Pirates of the Caribbean’s Elizabeth Swann certainly made me rethink my stance on the films (though, goodness knows, I am not about to revisit the franchise, thanks a lot, JOHNNY DEPP). I very much recommend this book overall. It’s a fun and engaging read.
Cross-posted to my blog.