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The Pirate Queen: In Search of Grace O'Malley and Other Legendary Women of the Sea

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3.42  ·  Rating details ·  143 Ratings  ·  30 Reviews
The Pirate Queen begins in Ireland with the notorious Grace O’Malley, a scourge to the most powerful fleets of sixteenth-century Europe. This Irish clan chieftain and pirate queen was a contemporary of Elizabeth I, and a figure whose life is the stuff of myth. Regularly raiding English ships caught off Ireland’s west coast, O’Malley purportedly fought off fierce Algerian p ...more
Paperback, 355 pages
Published June 1st 2004 by Seal Press (first published May 11th 2004)
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Jenn "JR"
Nov 10, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: history-pirates
I do confess - Pirate Queen Grace O'Malley was really the primary draw for me in this book - based on the jacket, I thought it was more of an in depth book, like Richard Zacks' excellent tome on Captain Kidd ("The Pirate Hunter").

What I got, instead - was a single chapter about Grace O'Malley and lots of references to people who apparently know more about and wrote more about her -- and a travelogue covering different roles women played in different communities in the north/west of European coa
...more
Liam
Aug 08, 2007 rated it did not like it
I'm sorry, I couldn't get beyond the second chapter. This is more about the author than about the figures she is in search of, and frankly, she isn't that interesting.
Lark
Feb 05, 2010 rated it it was ok
Shelves: nonfiction
What was ostensibly about Grace O’Malley turned out more to be about the author and her high times trolling around Ireland, feeling proud of herself for being so adventurous. Ho hum.
Kathy
Jul 25, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: kathy-s-shelf
I guess, unrealistically, I thought this book would be mostly a biography of Grace O'Malley, even though the title states it's about others also. I expected more facts, but again, almost all the people the author wrote about were alive 200 years or more ago.
Larry
Oct 07, 2017 rated it liked it
Good, but couldn't hold my interest. More of a travel and self-discovery for the author instead of a history
Pt Bunch
Mar 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
Barbara Sjoholm wonderfully combines personal history with myth, history, and journey. She celebrates the strength and courage of seafaring women, and by extension, all women. Her language moves from weirdly beautiful "Black pebbles like a million hard droplets from the center of the earth covered the half-circle of the bay," to straightforward descriptions of friends "...Gerd jumped in naked and came out much refreshed and ready for a Marlboro."

The Pirate Queen begins inauspiciously, a garishl
...more
Patty
“With source materials do hard to obtain from the other side of the world, I decided that to really get a picture of women’s maritime lives in history and myth, it would be far easier to travel there myself than to keep requesting interlibrary loans. I wanted to see those same coastlines I was reading about, to sail those same seas.”

This reader will never know why Sjoholm and her publisher titled this book The Pirate Queen: In Search of Grace O'Malley and Other Legendary Women of the Sea. The ti
...more
Teresa
Nov 02, 2015 rated it liked it
I picked it up thinking it was a biography of a swashbuckling heroine. Turns out to be a travelogue of the North Sea. Unexpected, but it's good to explore a different genre sometimes.

The author paints a vivid picture of the bleak, rocky, vigorous islands touching the North Sea, from Ireland to the Orkneys to Norway. The people she meets are perplexing and unusual. I don't want to travel there myself (brrr), but I am more curious about it than I ever was before.

But it's the women she researches
...more
Anastasia Hobbet
Apr 26, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir
Sjoholm should have re-titled this book and re-written those first couple of chapters. Packaged as is, they make for a misleading hook, thus all these disappointed, even exasperated, readers. I find myself wondering if the flashy title was her publisher's idea, and she wrote those early Grace O'Malley chapters more with more hope than good judgment. They don't belong in this otherwise fine book--or at least they don't belong in this form, in which Sjoholm promises a much different book than she ...more
Frrobins
Jan 24, 2016 rated it it was ok
The title and the description of this book are extremely misleading. I was expecting a biography of Grace O'Malley and other seafaring women. Instead this was a story about the author's search for information about Grace O'Malley and other women connected to the sea, whether they were captains or fisherwomen. I found the parts that detailed the lives of Grace O'Malley and other women such as Janet Forsyth and Freydis Eiriksdottir fascinating. I also found the information about the Sami and the h ...more
Debbie
May 13, 2013 rated it really liked it
The title of this book is misleading.
The title should read "Adventures of Women and the Sea".
Barbara travels from Ireland to Orkney Islands to Shetland Islands to Faroe Island to Iceland and then to Northern Sweden following the paths of women of the sea.
I found this to be a fascinating voyage of self discovery that opened up some additional doors for my personal research.
Too bad the title only mentions Grace O'Malley, Irish privateer that met Queen Elizabeth I.
Barbara's descriptions of the plac
...more
Alyce Cheshire
Dec 07, 2015 rated it it was ok
Definitely slow to start and more of an autobiography and the story of an introspective journey. My boyfriend suggested I read it, being the longing seafarer that he is, so I wasn't honestly sure what to expect, but I can see how people feel mislead by the title.

It is certainly slow to start, and took me a bit longer than average to get through, but I made it. Overall, I would say that it's just okay. I wasn't educated on anything this book pertains prior to, and wasn't reading it in search of w
...more
Andria
Apr 07, 2010 rated it really liked it
I loved this book! The only thing that I wish were different about it is the title. Certainly, I picked it up because it was titled The Pirate Queen and who doesn't want to learn about a pirate queen?! But only a small portion is about Grace O'Malley, the titled pirate queen of the book. The rest is about Barbara Sjoholm's journey to find more stories about women and the sea. It's part history, part mythology, part travel memoir, and all fascinating.
Wren
May 17, 2015 rated it it was ok
The title of this book is incorrect. The author should have added 'and my relationship with their stories' for this is a very personal journey. Forget history the author cares more about making fun of the locals. This is one to skip, she adds herself and her story into every chapter.

This would have been worth reading if she had stuck to the research and bound her chapters together with a thread that wasn't me!me!me!
Abby
Jan 27, 2017 rated it it was ok
2.5 stars. Like many other reviewers, I was disappointed to discover that this book was less about Grace O'Malley and other female pirates and seagoing women than the author's personal voyage of self-discovery as she traveled around the Northern Atlantic. However, I did find the stories of Grace O'Malley, Alfhild, Freydis Eiriksson (Leif's sister), Skipper Thuridur and other historical and legendary figures fascinating, and intend to read more about these women.
Siobhan
Jan 10, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: irish-history
It took me a while to read this one which is probably one reason why it seemed more dragged out than it might have been. I was disappointed with this book, mostly because I was expecting a biography of Grace O'Malley, but wound up with about 10% Grace O'Malley, 40% other sea-faring women, and 50% author's personal story. The parts about other women weren't bad, but I wasn't really interested in an autobiography of the author, especially one that was very idealized and cliche.
Deanna
Aug 30, 2009 rated it liked it
Obscure women and places inhabit the pages of this book which made much of it fascinating to read. Unfortunately, the author gets a bit bogged down in some of her research, sharing it with the rest of us. And then there's her name change...what that has to do with women of the sea is a little hazy.
Deb W
Jun 10, 2014 rated it liked it
Barbara's writing style seems typical these days, the reader reads about the places she's visiting, the histories she learns, and a lot about Barbara -- probably more about Barbara than I would've preferred. Still, it was interesting. If I were more of a sea-going woman interested in ancient Ireland and Norway it would've been more interesting.
Allison Hawn
Feb 25, 2015 rated it liked it
The information in this book was interesting, however, one had to dig through a lot of 'and I looked at the sea and it was pretty' type writing to find it. The people the author met on her journeys were interesting, and the writing was well-edited. It just wasn't what I was expecting from the title and description.
Petrea Burchard
Jan 01, 2011 rated it did not like it
The back-cover blurbs give the impression that this will be a book about notorious females who plied the high seas. It's actually the author's rather dull memoir, so I felt cheated.

Petrea Burchard
Camelot & Vine
Kayci
Jan 26, 2011 rated it really liked it
I like it so far. It reads more like a travel book because the author travels to Grace O'Malley's castle in Ireland and is going as far as Norway. I'm excited to continue reading the book and find out what happens.
Charity U
May 26, 2011 rated it liked it
It's really 3 1/2. It was interesting. Written in first person, it's essentially telling about the author's trip around Europe learning about women and the sea. I had to return it to the library 3/4 of the way through, but it was interesting. :)
J.G. Follansbee
Sep 01, 2011 rated it it was amazing
The Pirate Queen is a wonderful survey of the long tradition of women invading the man's role as pirate leader, focusing on the English and Irish traditions. You'll be surprised at the wonderful stories as the author explores the former haunts of the female pirates of old.
Ashley
Mar 20, 2009 rated it it was ok
Sort of interesting read. I was expecting a little more swash buckling instead of forlorn love of the sea. It's okay...
Polly
Feb 24, 2009 rated it really liked it
interesting analysis of women who made their way as sailors, fishing or pirates in Scotland, Ireland, Greenland, Iceland and Norway.
Erin O'Riordan
Sep 02, 2013 rated it really liked it
Some people might think this book is a bit rambling - it's really about women and our historical relationship with the sea, including in mythology and folklore - but I thought it was fascinating.
Melissa
Fun!
Brad Beattie
Not what I expected at all .
Perhaps a good story,but title
was miss leading.
Daniel
Mar 19, 2008 rated it it was amazing
What can I say? Barbara Sjoholm has my heart. Really. Every word she writes seems so alive.
Phyllis Duncan
rated it really liked it
Feb 28, 2012
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121776

I’m a writer of memoir, mysteries, fiction, and travel books on Lapland and women and the sea (The Pirate Queen). My travel essays have appeared in Smithsonian, Slate, and American Scholar, as well as many other publications. I’m Irish and Swedish, but a translator of Norwegian and Danish. I’ve written under the names Barbara Wilson (my father’s adoptive name) and Barbara Sjoholm (which means sea
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