THE CHANGELING by Alison MacLeod


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 In bewitching prose, MacLeod's debut unfurls the fantastic story of Anne Bonny, an 18th-century cross-dressing pirate. Narrated primarily by Annie Fulworth, a midwife, the story begins with Anne Bonny's birth--the daughter of a poor woman made pregnant by Manley, a member of the Irish gentry. As Annie had foreseen, Sally dies in childbirth, leaving the infant to be raised by Annie and then by Mr. Manley, who wants a male heir to punish his pregnant wife, since their marriage was, he claims, never consummated. Baby Anne, renamed Anson, is raised as a boy, living a charmed life until the estranged Mrs. Manley returns to reclaim her ancestral home. Mr. Manley, Anne, the loyal Annie, and her youngest son decide to try their luck in America, settling in Carolina. The bright, willful Anne, no longer needing to pretend to be a boy, begins to dress in women's clothing. Charmed by Jim Bonny, a local seaman, she takes to the high seas with him (and thereby escapes a bloody Indian uprising), dragging Annie along. As no women are allowed on a ship, being bad luck, Anne turns back into Anson, and Annie masquerades as a ghost. Stranded on an island in the West Indies, and saddled with Jim, who proves to be an oafish layabout, Anne is soon tempted by the dandy pirate Captain Jack, who takes her to sea, where she must once again become Anson. Anne/Anson happily leads the pirate life, proving as cruel and ruthless as the best of them. The tale falters a bit here, hopping too precipitously from one misadventure to another, but it regains its pace and power when it returns to Annie Fulworth, as she desperately searches for the pregnant Anne, who's being hunted as an escaped convict. Richly told, full of folk tales and lively superstitions: this magical and fierce depiction of 18th-century life (and of the dilemmas of gender) is a charm.

Pub Date: Dec. 1st, 1996
ISBN: 0-312-14564-0
Page count: 336pp
Publisher: St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15th, 1996


FictionALL THE BELOVED GHOSTS by Alison MacLeod
by Alison MacLeod