Book Review: A True Account: Hannah Masury’s Sojourn Amongst the Pyrates, Written by Herself by Katherine Howe
FORMAT/INFO: A True Account was published in November 2023 by Magpie Books in the U.K. and by Henry Holt and Co. in the U.S. It is available in hardback, ebook, and audiobook formats.
OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: A True Account by Katherine Howe is a historical fiction book with intertwined narratives of a girl who finds herself pressed into the service of a pirate, as well as a professor in the twentieth century who attempts to piece together her story.
The former is Hannah Masury who finds herself on a ship, and does whatever she has to for her survival, and the latter is a professor whose student hands her a manuscript with a compelling story narrated by Hannah in hindsight.
First thing, I know nothing about boats. Throw any nautical terms as me, and I’m as lost as a sailor without a compass at stormy sea. If that’s the right analogy. Is it any surprise that I connected so much to the former timeline with Hannah since she was such a novice? I loved it much better than the other timeline, while that started out as an equally compelling one.
Hannah’s timeline dazzled me, as did her sheer will to survive through any means. While she is fearful, she faces difficult circumstances head on, and definitely a character to be invested in. She’s a young girl at the beginning of the story, but she shows extraordinary courage in such an unfamiliar territory, and it’s hard not to feel fear for her, as well as put yourself in her shoes. This timeline makes for a rollicking good read, and makes the nautical setting leap off the page enough that you can feel the humidity and the salty sea spray, and that and more makes this to be such an evocative story. I could read another two hundred pages detailing her adventures without any issues. The highlight for me was definitely the subtle touch to the deprecating tone used in her narration, which made some of the more gory, graphic and unforgiving acts performed in the pirate setting much easier to read.
While Marianne, the professor’s timeline shows her different struggle in her time, it stumbled a bit too much in it’s pacing, as did Hannah’s, but the past timeline faltered only at the very end. Marianne gets excited at the prospect of the treasure promised by the manuscript and ropes in her father and her student to go chase it down. This opened up a lot of threads, such as her void of an existence in a time that women were expected to live with the sanctity of marriage, and clearly she’s a woman of much privilege. There’s this sense of constant tension at the beginning with her and her father, which slowly smoothens out into something a lot more affectionate and tender, at an unjustified rate. The pace is uneven at best, and has a free fall towards being less and less controlled, and this bothered me more and more as I read her part of the story, and finish is very rushed and abrupt.
CONCLUSION: Despite stumbling in different aspects, I find this book worth the read for just Hannah’s perspective and the nautical setting, and I have to admit that most of that part is superbly done. Well worth a try.