Today I have the honor of calling our esteemed club to order. I hope you’ve all had a chance to read Bloody Jack by L.A. Meyer. I noticed that the publisher recently issued a new paperback edition, so if you haven’t read it, perhaps this will be your chance!
As before, I’ll start off the discussion with my thoughts, and then you get to jump in with comments. I’ll be monitoring the blog today and through the weekend and will try to respond whenever appropriate. Marissa will close the discussion on Tuesday. We really love to hear your thoughts! You suggested the book club—please join in!
I enjoyed reading Bloody Jack several years ago, but I found it all the more interesting to read this time around because, since then, I’d been sailing on a tall ship. The descriptions of the ship and activities seemed even more real now that I had an experience to align with them. I love the attention to detail, the wonderful explanations of Jacky’s daily life. I’ve always wanted to run away to sea in search of pirates; Jacky allowed me to run away with her!
Those of you who read our first club book, Mairelon the Magician, probably also noticed several common themes. One was that, if you want upward mobility and adventure, it’s easier being a boy than a girl in the nineteenth century. The Navy in particular provided opportunities. Many of the “middies” were there because their families paid for that position with the idea that their sons would advance. Though Jaimy’s parents couldn’t afford to pay for a position, it’s expected that the lad, with courage and hard work, will advance to an officer’s post. Even Jacky, by showing sufficient courage and ingenuity, is promoted to a midshipman position.
The Navy represented a dangerous, difficult life, but one with a chance for something better. While a sailor’s salary wasn’t much (and as you saw was just as likely to have been spent before the poor fellow even reached home!), there was the chance for prize money, which could amount to thousands of dollars. In a society based heavily on wealth and family privilege, no other position could legally offer such riches for those at the bottom of the heap.
Another common theme was that language, dress, and manners make the person. I particularly loved Jacky’s thoughts on why people don’t notice The Deception. Having acted the part of a nineteenth century dandy for many years as an ongoing joke among my sister authors of nineteenth-century fiction, I completely agree with Jacky! If you dress the part, if you take on the mannerisms, if you use the right language, and if nature has blessed you with the right shaped-face and short hair (and, ahem, a less than ample upper half or at least one you can keep concealed), you too can be mistaken for a bloke!
So, what did you think? Did you cheer for Jacky along the way? Did you cringe over some of the more beastly things that happened to her? Do you believe she’ll be happy in a girls’ finishing school? (I haven’t read book 2, so don’t spoil it for me!) Do you want to run away to sea with me? Come on, fess up! Do you have a little pirate or pirate-catcher in your blood?