Acquired Book By: I was invited to join the Head of Zeus blog tour for the Time Shift Historical Drama “The Boy with Blue Trousers” which I felt an immediate connection too. I was overjoyed to have this opportunity to read this novel as there was something rather wickedly interesting about the premise and how it felt it was going to be told by the author. I haven’t been hosting for this publisher for very long and each blog tour I am able to host I feel blessed as I love celebrating authors from the UK and the stories they are telling through the different genres Head of Zeus is publishing which encourages my bookish and readerly wanderings into Crime Dramas, Historical Fiction and Historical Sagas as well as other genres I’ve keenly become intrigued by over the years as I’ve been blogging.
I received a complimentary copy of “The Boy with Blue Trousers” direct from the publisher Head of Zeus in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.
How I came to be reading “The Boy with Blue Trousers:
The story sounds convictingly emotional – especially as it has a duality perspective as two women try to change their stars and reclaim their lives. I also liked the multi-cultural aspects of it as well. I do not oft get to read a novel set in Australia and I love the cultural heritage and diverse population of the country whilst I enjoy finding Historical set in a country I’ve loved having friends from over the years as I’ve had the chance to get to know a bit about Australia in the process of our friendships.
This will mark my first Historical Time Shift read from a Head of Zeus novelist whilst at the same time it is the first time I’ve had the pleasure of reading and discovering the Historical styling of Carol Jones. I love disappearing into the historical past on quite the regular basis – this one felt alive in a different kind of place set during a portion of history I haven’t previously read and happily gave me an entry point into a new cornerstone of History to explore.
Whenever this happens it’s a bookish celebration as I love *Historical Fiction!* for giving me a time traveller’s glimpse into the past; especially as the writers themselves are not just deepening the experience we have within their stories through research but they are giving us compellingly realistic characters to tuck close to in order to better understand their section of ‘history’.
Happily part of my showcase for this beautiful blog tour is being able to ask a few pertinent questions on behalf of the story to coincide with my featured review today. I’m going to be sharing the first three questions ahead of my review and you can happily read the conclusion of our conversation after I share my ruminative thoughts on behalf of The Boy with Blue Trousers. I am truly blessed and thankful to Ms Tavella for scheduling this Q&A.
For my regular readers, visitors & followers alike – you’ll already know how much I appreciate interviewing the authors I am reading and reviewing here on Jorie Loves A Story. If this is a first time visit via this blog tour to my blog – you’ll quickly see how much I love discussing Historical Fiction and the elements of what make this particular story rather uniquely nuanced in the genre I am dearly passionate about reading!
A key part of your novel is about a woman who is trying to escape her circumstances by disguising herself as a ‘boy in blue trousers’ – how did you conceive of the disguise and how did hiding her gender have a greater effect on her, outside of attempting to keep her safe?
Jones responds: There is a long tradition in Chinese literature of female characters who disguise themselves as men. The story of Mulan is well known outside of China courtesy of Disney, but there are many other examples in plays, stories and opera.
In creating the character of Little Cat I was borrowing from a longstanding literary tradition. Besides, if I wanted to write an authentic story about a Chinese woman joining the rush for gold in Australia in the mid-nineteenth century, the only feasible way for her to arrive was dressed as a boy.
At least 16,000 Chinese immigrants landed on the shores of Robe, South Australia in 1856 and 1857 to make the trek to the goldfields, and only one was a woman. Chinese women rarely left China at this time. The disguise allowed her to make the journey, it helped keep her safe, but it also allowed her a greater freedom. And as the novel progresses, she begins to learn that with that greater freedom also comes greater responsibility. With more choice, she has more room for error. I think she also begins to appreciate the more feminine aspects of her character that she previously regretted.
Both Little Cat and Violet are women who are trying to re-direct their lives on their own terms – how important was it to focus on their determined spirit to not allow circumstances to be a determining factor in the path their future would hold?
Jones responds: Oh, it was essential. I think everybody faces limitations placed upon them by family and society, but both Little Cat and Violet have been totally hemmed in by their circumstances. Yet both characters are determined not to let those circumstances define them or dictate their lives, and consequently they get themselves into a great deal of trouble.
Australia, or New Gold Mountain as the Chinese miners called it, represents an opportunity for both to remake their lives. And although they choose very different methods, neither woman will let little things like gossip, poverty, hardship or danger, stop them.
Of all the characters within this novel – who was the most challenging to bring forward into the scope of where you wanted readers to emotionally feel conflicted by their presence?
Jones responds: I anticipate that readers will feel conflicted, and indeed I intend them to feel conflicted about two characters. Violet, although quite charming at times, is also a very self-centred woman who is often careless of others. I know that some readers will dislike her, but I hope they will also appreciate that her actions are a survival mechanism at a time when a single woman, especially one from the ‘genteel’ classes, had few options for supporting herself. I also hope that they will admire her indomitable spirit in not accepting her society’s strictures about how a woman should behave.
Young Wu is the other character, who I am fairly sure will be disliked initially, as he espouses opinions that are probably an anathema to many readers, opinions that are a product of the era and his society. However, as the story progresses I think the reader’s view of him might change. I can’t say more without spoilers!
Notation on Cover Art: The art of embroidery has a reason of being highlighted on the cover for this novel and when you hold this UK edition up close and personal you get to see the finer details of how this art form was used in the design for the cover. I personally loved the choices the publisher made with designing this cover as it eluded towards key passages, sequences and scenes within the novel but without voicing to whom they belonged or why it was important to reference them. It is rather stunning seeing the hues combine in person and to see dimensionally how this fits into the story itself.
On the goldfields of 19th Century Australia, two very different girls are trying to escape their past.
English governess Violet Hartley has fled from England after a scandalous liaison. Now she is angling for a rich husband and a new life. Little Cat is fleeing from her home in Southern China after killing the powerful old man who tried to abuse her. Disguised as a boy, she joins the huge Chinese workforce on the goldfields of Victoria. But the son of the murdered man is on her trail, intent on vengeance. Violet Hartley becomes first suspicious, then jealous of the delicate looking Chinese boy. Love, sexual desire, violence and financial ambition entwine in this mesmerising saga.
Places to find the book:
Published by Head of Zeus
Format: UK Edition Paperback
Converse via: #TheBoyWithBlueTrousers, #HistNov or #HistFic
Available Formats: Hardcover, Trade Paperback, Audiobook & Ebook
Read this in-depth interview with Carol Jones about her novel
Reading this book contributed to these challenges: