The Discovery of Jeanne Baret by Glynis Ridley

The biography of a cross-dressing plant-loving globe-circling (but unfortunately man-dependent) Frenchwoman in the mid-1700s.

Ridley makes a disappointing number of suppositions and then runs with those suppositions, basing large chunks of later information on what she is merely assuming might have happened. She also ascribes thoughts and feeling to Baret that simply cannot be confirmed. Despite a few such catches, Ridely writes an engaging biography that I picked up and read all the way through without needing or wanting a fiction break.

Lack of facts aside, Baret was an incredible woman who crossed class and gender barriers at a time when doing so…simply wasn’t done. She was the first woman to circumnavigate the globe, and, while she relied on men to begin and complete her journey, I had to step back from my slight disappointment in her lack of independence/free thought and put her journey in context. She may have needed men to do what she did and may have defined herself and her experience through her relationships with men, but she was still an early example of what women can do.

And a big thank you to Linda from Silly Little Mischief–I won this book in a giveaway from her!

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