Book Review: The Mary White by Gillie Bowen


Today we are excited to share this book, The Mary White, with you. Earlier this year I did an interview with author Gillie Bowen, who talked about her books. I was so intrigued, I had to give this a read and I was not disappointed. 

The Details:

The Mary White by Gillie Bowen
Published: 17 October 2020
Publisher: Independent
Genre: Historical Fiction
Pages: 336
Available: Ebook, paperback

The Blurb:

Born into a long-established family of boatbuilders in Broadstairs, Kent, Mary White is a rebellious teenager who is as passionate about the sea as her father. The Goodwin Sands, a treacherous stretch of sand which lies six miles off the coast of Kent, claims the lives of thousands of sailors. In 1741, it is John White’s ambition to design a unique rescue boat to save the crews of floundering ships. Mary spends every minute she can helping at the boatyard, much against her mother’s wishes. In the early eighteenth century, Thanet is a hotbed of of smuggling. Wines, spirits and tea are brought in illegally from France on small boats, and most local fishermen dabble in the game. Headstrong Mary becomes caught up in smuggling for the notorious Hawkhurst Gang with Stephen, her first love. The penalty for those caught by the Customs men is death by public hanging. Following a daring escapade at sea, Stephen is forced to flee. Mary aids his escape by arranging for him to go to war with her brother, aboard HMS Victory, The Royal Navy’s flagship. But in late September 1744, returning from a successful mission in Spanish waters, the ship sinks in a storm in the English Channel and all hands are lost. Alongside her father, Mary learns to build and design boats. She is involved in the build of a racing yacht for the son of a famous London economist, who falls in love with her impetuous nature. Anxious to get away from the restraints of family life in rural Kent, and believing the love of her life has drowned at sea, Mary marries and moves to London. Set against a background of war with France and the Jacobite Rebellion of 1745, this true story moves at a fast pace through an uneasy time in British history. Will Mary’s marriage bring her the happiness and freedom she craves? Or, as lives continue to be lost at sea by ships wrecked along this notorious coastline, will she be drawn back to to the sea? What will the future hold for this brave and impulsive girl, who refuses to conform to the traditions and restrictions thrust upon the women of her time?

My Review:

The Plot: The blurb lays out the plot in great detail so I don't need to add to much more. This book is based on an ancestor of the author Gillie Bowen. The plot follows Mary from a fifteen year old girl as she fights for an independent life in an age when this is hard to come by. She hopes marriage will bring her the freedom she craves all while mourning her first love. 

The Characters: Mary White is a delight. A brave, forward-thinking girl in an era when women were nothing more than ornaments. She is so well drawn, a likeable young woman, you'll find yourself cheering her on from the start. Mary is surrounded by a loving family, a father who supports her love of boats and mother who wants the best for her daughter. Both are amazingly tolerant of Mary's adventures, at least those they know about! Henry Massie was a hoot! A pompous despicable hoot. I loved the descriptions of his clothes and his character. I wish we had gotten to know Mary's first love, Stephen, a bit better. 

The History: This setting is one of my favorites. Set during the Georgian years in England, the pages are full of historical events; Naval War with their old enemy, France, the Scottish Rebellion and the Battle of Culloden, and Georgian London. The author did a great job of blending Mary's story with the history of the day. There is also some great descriptions of the clothing worn in the mid 1700s as well a interesting look at boat building and design. I was surprised by the amount of ships that were lost each year along the coast. The author gives us a glimpse at the attempts to save the unfortunate sailors who found themselves shipwrecked. 

The Writing: Told in first person/present tense this books zips along at a fast clip. The book is well edited, the narrative engaging, the plot well executed. 

Overall: I really enjoyed this book. The fact that it is based on a real woman makes it all the better. I highly recommend it to readers of historical fiction, I don't think you'll be disappointed.

My Rating: I give this book ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ five stars!


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