Friday, April 23, 2010

The Young Bluestockings Book Club Reads Bloody Jack

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?

18 comments:

Jessica said...

I totally agree with the idea that the "dressing" is sometimes all that people see when they look at someone. I thought it was interesting to see Jacky dress not only as a boy, but also as a vagabond, then a shipmate, and people accepted all her roles with ease. (hilarious when the other boys would go sans clothing and then she'd be left semi-dressed trying to hide out!) Kudos to Jacky for her bravery and being up to the challenge of exploring not only new places, a dangerous lifestyle at sea, but also a whole new gender role! Love this series.

Regina Scott said...

Good points, Jessica! And Jacky even looked pretty good as a girl, too, once she committed to it. :)

QNPoohBear said...

I've read the entire series thus far and am currently listening to the audio version of the first book. I find it a little hard to understand the narrator because she uses a cockney accent for Jacky. I was drawn into the story by the adventure. I wanted to know if Jacky could keep up the deception and for how long and what would happen to her. She's very brave and daring. She likes to show off and is a talented actress and a lot of the things she does tend to be over-the-top and unnecessary and that's starting to get on my nerves. I do want her to succeed and be really happy. I'm enjoying the first adventure all over again and find I can't put it down and I may download the audio books for the rest of the series. (thank you library!)

Rachel said...

I thought the book was great. I'm not sure how long Jacky could have kept up The Deception though.

In real life, surely she wouldn't have been treated to a life in a girls' school after being discovered. Wouldn't she have been punished by the English gov't for deception?

Wish I could get my hands on the second volume. Our local libraries don't have a copy. I would to find out what happens to her at a girls' school. I have a feeling she wouldn't like it and that she would try to find her way back to Jaimy.

Regina Scott said...

QNPoohBear--sometimes I think writers of historical novels just can't wait to use the things they learn in researching. At least I can't! The whole kite thing in this book made me wonder about that. Necessary? No. But oh so fun!

Rachel--I think maybe the girls' school was a way not to be embarrassed. You mean the captain didn't know he had a girl on board? For 2 years! This way they could say, oh, yes, we knew. We were very careful for our girl, treated her like a daughter. See, when she was old enough we sent her to school. Just my thought.

bethany said...

I am afraid I did not enjoy the book. I don't know if it was my mood at the time or that I'm an unfeeling landlubber :) anyway, I tend to be afected by the charecters in the books I read so I try to only read books that have good honest people as the main charecters so that I won't clutter my mind. as it is writen "were your mind is their your heart will be also"

ChaChaneen said...

Regina and Marissa - you ladies are the best for keeping up the book club! Thank you so much for your dedication to it. Unfortunately this will probably be my last book of the group reading schedule.

I was about to think I was the only reader who didn't enjoy the book either until I saw Bethany's comment. Having not faced such adversity in life it was a bit painful to read as I could not identify with Jacky. Like our first book too, I had trouble with the dialect in the beginning although as she grew up it got a bit easier - her speech matured is what I'm trying to say.

After these two series, I think I'm just not attracted to young reader novels anymore. But please continue to do what you ladies do best and that is Teen History! I enjoy all other parts of your blog and will continue to come back for that. Have a great weekend ladies!

Regina Scott said...

Bethany,

No problem! Jacky definitely has a hard time sticking to the truth. That isn't the best aspect of her character, for sure! Appreciate you sharing your thoughts!

Regina Scott said...

ChaChaneen, don't give up! I can't speak for Marissa, who had to be away from her computer today and so probably won't be chiming in until tomorrow at the earliest. However, I have been a bit disappointed that we aren't hearing from more folks. Maybe we're picking the wrong books! Would people be more interested in discussing classics like Jane Austen or even the Brontes? (Can't figure out how to do the little thingy over the e!) Marissa and I will definitely be talking next week, so please chime in with thoughts!

QNPoohBear said...

Regina,
I love historical details! The historical parts are what I like best which is why I like the first three books the best. Then Jacky heads into territory I know too much about to believe her adventures. Rapture of the Deep was pretty good though.

What I meant is that Jacky is a free spirit but sometimes the author takes her a bit too far and it gets tiring. I'm trying not to spoil later books so I won't mention details.

Personally, I love YA books and I don't think there's a 19th c. historical fiction (non-fantasy) novel I haven't read yet but if anyone can find one, I'd love to read it!

Regina Scott said...

Ah, I see, QNPoohBear. Thanks for the explanation. I had another adult series I adored that was mostly set in contemporary times, but then the author did one with a flashback to the nineteenth century. Like you, I knew a few too many details to suspend disbelief. Putting in the right details, and getting them right, is a challenge for any writer, for sure!

Is there a particularly good book about 19th century teens you'd recommend us reading? (I'm sure you have already, but having it here again will help me discuss this with Marissa).

ChaChaneen said...

Well I do lurve the classics... Austen, Bronte, etc. Here's an idea... put up a multiple choice for the next selection and perhaps that will help to see what your followers enjoy to discuss. I've seen on other blogs where there are widgets or polls you can get on the internet that you can embed in your post for a multiple choice type thing.

Your doing a great job ladies! And as I've learned over the years, you can please everyone but it's the majority where we come together to share in our lurve of books.

Rachel said...

Ladies,

I love the books you choose. I've read alot of classics so I'd rather see the books you choose. I'm reading books I would never have picked up since I am older than YA.

Keep up the good work! I can't wait to see what you ladies pick next for the YB Book Club!

Tricia Tighe said...

Regina,

What's it like wearing a cravat? It looks uncomfortable. :D

It's been a while since I read Bloody Jack. I love a good romantic ending, and I remember being uneasy with Jacky going off to a girls' school--she and Jaimy would probably never see each other again. (And yes, I know she was very young, but still.) I guess someday I'll have to finish the series.

QNPoohBear said...

Here is my lists of recommended YA Historical Fiction.
US: http://bluestockingmusings.blogspot.com/2009/04/recommended-young-adult-united-states.html

World:
http://bluestockingmusings.blogspot.com/2009/04/recommended-historical-fiction.html

There are a lot more I've read since then.

continuing the theme of girls dressed as boys. I would recommend Here Lies the Librarian by Richard Peck but it's typically classified as middle grades. He's a great storyteller and very funny! His non-humorous YA novel The River Between Us is wonderful and really made an impression on me.

QNPoohBear said...

p.s I also highly recommend
Marie, Dancing by Carolyn Meyer
The story of Degas's statue of the little ballerina

Regina Scott said...

Tricia,

Wearing a cravat's not bad. Tying a cravat is horrible, especially when one doesn't have a valet standing by to help! :-)

QnPoohBear, thank you so much for the recommendations! At the very least, folks may find something they'd like to read on their own! Marissa and I are currently debating over e-mail. More soon!

Meg said...

I agree with those who think Jacky's adventures are over-the-top, but I adore her, and will continue reading the series (I've read them all so far). I like them because Jacky's not trying TOO hard to be good, which makes her more fun. I also like them because the adventures Jacky has remind me of old pulp adventure stories.

Also, Meyer has peppered the books with small literary references, which I appreciate since I was an English major in college.