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A True Account

A True Account, December 2023
by Katherine Howe

Henry Holt and Co.
Featuring: Hannah Masury; Marian Beresford
288 pages
ISBN: 1250304881
EAN: 9781250304889
Kindle: B0BST4C4JQ
Hardcover / e-Book / audiobook
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"Historical fiction with gritty realism among the pyrates"

Fresh Fiction Review

A True Account
Katherine Howe

Reviewed by Clare O'Beara
Posted June 29, 2024

Women's Fiction Time Slip

Boston in the early 1700s is a bitter and brutal place at times. Hannah Masury earns a living by helping in a waterfront inn, but just like Jim Hawkins of Treasure Island, she falls foul of pirates. A TRUE ACCOUNT of her life thereafter makes for a fine adventure novel on the high seas. The first two chapters deal with a hanging, which was a chapter too many for me. In those days, this was the only free theatre that poor people got, and both the rich and the clergy encouraged attendance, as they wanted obedience. Pirates were a danger to shipping trade and while they might rob and free merchants, they killed Navy men that were captured, on the basis that the navy would give them no quarter. So a hanging for piracy sets an example. Hannah accidentally sees some seamen kill someone ashore, and to escape, dresses as a boy and jumps on a tatty ship, saying that she’s a cabin boy.  Wouldn’t you know it, Hannah, or Will the cabin boy, picked the wrong ship. Renowned pirate-to-be Edward ‘Ned’ Low sets sail and the scurvy crew are soon demonstrating the ropes to the ship’s master. There’s no going back. This is a timeslip story as a determined student brings a scruffy manuscript to her professor, Marian Beresford, in 1930, for appraisal. Hannah Masury’s Sojourn Amongst the Pyrates, Written by Herself, is on the front. If this is as old as it appears, Marian and Kay might be able to add to the known history of a few women disguising themselves as male seafarers. Professor John Beresford, Marian’s father, doubts its authenticity straight away, but who can resist the lure of a quest for pirate treasure? Be prepared for outright brutality and shocking scenes at close quarters. I only forgave the author at the end when she explained what parts were real history; the gory scenes were true. Katherine Howe borrowed Hannah’s name from a relative of the period and based her character upon two actual women seafarers, one who disguised herself as a boy and one who married a sailor and traveled with him. The 1930s scenes are quaint to read now but explain why there’s no Google Earth to track Caribbean islands. Marian also keeps her personal secrets, a woman of two identities like young Hannah.  A TRUE ACCOUNT kept me reading and wanting to know how it ended. I can recommend the novel to adults who enjoy historical fiction with gritty realism. 

Learn more about A True Account


From New York Times bestselling author Katherine Howe comes a daring first-hand account of one young woman's unbelievable adventure as one of the most terrifying sea rovers of all time.

In Boston, as the Golden Age of Piracy comes to a bloody close, Hannah Masury – bound out to service at a waterfront inn since childhood – is ready to take her life into her own hands. When a man is hanged for piracy in the town square and whispers of a treasure in the Caribbean spread, Hannah is forced to flee for her life, disguising herself as a cabin boy in the pitiless crew of the notorious pirate Edward "Ned" Low. To earn the freedom to choose a path for herself, Hannah must hunt down the treasure and change the tides.

Meanwhile, professor Marian Beresford pieces Hannah’s story together in 1930, seeing her own lack of freedom reflected back at her as she watches Hannah's transformation. At the center of Hannah Masury’s account, however, lies a centuries-old mystery that Marian is determined to solve, just as Hannah may have been determined to take it to her grave.

A True Account tells the unforgettable story of two women in different worlds, both shattering the rules of their own society and daring to risk everything to go out on their own account.

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