Slipping the noose by Meg Caddy

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Following the dramatic events in Devil’s Ballast, Slipping the noose describes the fate of Anne Bonny after her capture. Chained up in the belly of the ship with her 9-month-old daughter Molly, Anne Bonny is fearful for her life and that of Molly. When travelling in the prison boat on the Thames, destined for the notorious Newgate Prison, Molly is grabbed and taken away. Anne takes her own life in her hands and flings herself into the dirty waters of the Thames, just managing to drag herself to shore. Lucy, who is in the employ of the powerful, wicked Rook, the warden of Newgate Prison, captures her, but Bonny, desperate to find her child while really missing the help and companionship of Calico Jack and her crew manages to escape. Meanwhile Read and Darling are languishing in Newgate Prison.

I have not read Devil’s Ballast, but Caddy has put in enough back story for me to easily follow Slipping the noose as a stand-alone, although it would be better to have read both stories. The historical background and the map of Bonny’s London with the marking of relevant places to her exploits, makes this a fascinating read. Descriptions of the Thames, the prisoners inside Newgate Prison, hangings, and the beliefs of the Jacobites will enthral lovers of historical fiction. In the Author Notes, Caddy states that ‘this book is filled with real and imagined people, and real and imagined events’ and the story had me going to sources to find out what was real and what was imagined.

The narrative is written in the voices of Bonny and Read, and both come alive for the reader. Read is calm and thoughtful while Bonny is daring and adventurous. Fletcher and Bram are likeable characters who have their own secrets, and 18th century London takes on a character of its own, with smuggling on the Thames, Jacobite uprisings, secret printing presses and slums.

Lovers of adventures will follow the exploits of Bonny and Read as they struggle to stay alive, and the exciting final on Putney Bridge is memorable.

Though all the historical background and adventure run the threads of feminism, gender identity and belonging all written sensitively by the author.

Readers who enjoyed this might like Fable by Adrienne Young and Six of crows by Leah Bardugo. Teacher’s notes are available from the publisher.

Themes: Pirates, Historical fiction, Anne Bonny, Gender identity, Newgate Prison, London - 18th century.

Pat Pledger

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