disclaimer: I ain't so savvy with the accents on the computer, y'all. So, when we type "Ate's" name --- I want you to know that it doesn't read "Ate" ( as in I ate some carrots whilst watching the World Cup); rather, "TAY" as in parTAY (with carrots while watching the World Cup)! savvy? second, this little book dialogue contains some spoiler-ish content ( but not enough to keep you from wanting to run out and buy the book, methinks)
'Member when Courtney and I discussed Georgette Heyer and it changed your lives? well, we're back! together! la la la !
Rachel:Courtney read the Blooding of Jack Absolute. I have been trying to get Courtney to read TBoJA since, umm, since 200--- when did it come out again?
Courtney: This one came out in 2005. First Jack book came out in 2003.
Rachel: So, when Court texted me saying she was reading some Jack. I thought: count me in! This stuff is FUUUN! ---plus, it takes me back to my university student years. Court, you might have to get us through the first part of the novel because I have not read it in FOREVER! Readers, I just picked up my copy and read from the chapter called “Ate” onward --- ‘cause that’s where all the best stuff is. So, Court, maybe you want to tell us about the first three quarters of the book: like, with Jack and Craster and an annoying female character ( or two ) and Plains of Abraham and Stuff ( to put it eloquently). What was your initial impression of our friend Jack( other than the fact that he looks like Jack Davenport)?
Courtney:Well! Prologue starts when he’s about … 7 I think? Anyway, we meet Jack as who is constantly beat and bullied by his uncle, and his older (by a year) cousin Craster. (And so, the first parallel between Jack and Craster: both were born out of wedlock, and so are considered bastards – except apparently Jack isn’t really a bastard, but we don’t learn that until later on.) Jack’s uncle dies, Craster is annoying (not in a good way), Jack’s parents show up, and whisk the two of them off to London, where they will both be attending (different) boarding schools. And you can’t help but feeling both annoyed with and protective of Jack. He’s a dumb boy who eggs things on, but these people who are supposed to be his protectors (read: his uncle) is a complete tyrant to him. Not cool! Fast forward however many years into the future when Jack is 16 (I think?). He and his friends have formed a society of “Mohoks” (sp?), which they’ve fashioned after the REAL Mohawks of Canada. (Woah, foreshadowing!) Jack gets into a duel with his cousin Craster (the kind of duels where pistols are shot, obviously), and then in order to save the family name and to escape the police etc etc, he gets into the British army, and is shipped off to Canada. (w00t w00t!) Which is where the fun begins. Oh, right, and before he is shipped off to Canada, he has relations with many women. One, he is in love with – a delicate, precious, goddess of a thing, who is rather annoying. One, taught him the art of making love – the mistress of another dude that Jack manages to serious piss off, and seriously the female should’ve known this would eventually happen. And I think there is one other, but I don’t know. Anyway, these parts were really boring. Because, seriously? Must ALL awesome adventure novels have the hero get into some kind of romantic encounter? BAH. It just detracts from the adventure story itself.
Rachel:Humphreys is not the only culprit here. I am looking at you, Bernard Cornwell and you Ian Fleming and you every- other- author -of -adventure- fiction -that -features -some -sort -of- “strong” -heroine ---is it to entice women to read “guy” books? pfft!I think girls want battles and bromance in their adventure novels. You need not cater to us. If we want our girly stuff, we can traipse over to Austen.
Courtney: Rachel, I know that you started when Ate shows up, but I have a sneaking suspicion that you’ll want to say something about the Plains of Abraham, so why don’t you continue tangentially on with how awesome and underrated Canadian history is?
Rachel: Really? I thought you would never ask!
THE PLAINS OF ABRAHAM as retold by Rachel
-->the Battle of the Plains of Abraham was the pivotal battle in the SEVEN YEARS WAR ( don't ask me how long that war ran for ;) )--
-->It was fought by the British Army and the French army on the plains just outside the fortress of Quebec City.
-->it was the result of a three month siege on Quebec by the British and basically the action went down in an hour---Gen. James Wolfe led the British; Louis-Joseph, Marquis de Montcalm led the French
--> WOLFE AND MONTCALM ( is grade eight history coming back to you now? ) were mortally wounded during the Battle and people painted their deaths. ( Apparently Montcalm said something poignant on his deathbed like " I am glad" or " I am glad of it" or summat like that)
-->the Battle basically was the last straw and the last hold that the French had in any power/ ownership of Canadian land---within four years of the Plains of Abraham show-down, all of France's possessions in this area of North America were ceded to the British.
-->Jack was there!
Courtney:Ha! Brilliant! So yes, Jack fights in the Battle of the Plains of Abraham, which was totally awesome because it’s a huge part of Canadian history (even if it only lasted like 15 minutes and a lot of Canadians don’t even know what it is when mentioned) and it made it seem so much more real than when reading history book entries about it. Because you care about the characters, and so it means more to you (not that it shouldn’t mean a lot, but there’s a lot of disconnect due to how many years ago it was)! This is how history should be taught! Anyway! Blah blah blah after that, Jack’s a slave, meets Ate, they don’t get along, then they escape together and then! This is where the fun stuff starts. Because the two of them spend ONE WHOLE WINTER in a cave with JUST THE TWO OF THEM and a dead bear (that they killed to get meat and other stuff and that was really the best part of the whole book). And do you know what keeps them occupied all winter and makes them the bestest of friends? --HAMLET. Because the Bard has a way of making enemies into friends, yo.
Rachel:Seriously. So, one of the things that Courtney and I wanted to address in ye olde Jack Absolute is the theatricality. First off, we should mention that Jack Absolute is not just a figment of the author’s imagination. Instead, he is a character featured in Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s The Rivals (1775): a play I had to read in university—around the time I met “our” Jack. From the start, theatricality is embedded in the stories. There is something so wonderful about Ate mounting a tree stub and quoting the "To Be or Not To Be" soliloquy in his native language. Hamlet, for Jack and Ate, is an equalizer. We learn it is something that Jack can “trade” for Ate’s inherent wilderness skill and it obliterates language and cultural barrier for the two of them. In essence, Jack and Ate communicate through Hamlet: Jack teaching English to Ate all the while and Ate translating Hamlet ( as best possible ) into his own Iroquois language. I would have to say, Court, that it is one of the more brilliant literary turns in contemporary fiction. The chapter focusing on their re-hashing of Hamlet as the sleepy, cold winter drips past them is utterly unique, surprising and a type of meta-fiction I can sink my teeth into. Moreover, it provides a delightful contrast: the crude Canadian wilderness somehow made eloquent by a British and “cultured” play. A unifying force that binds their two starkly different worlds together. But, enough about Hamlet ( which, we will learn, is a recurring motif in the trilogy -- I say trilogy ‘cause where in bloody hell is the fourth book?), how about THE BEAR?
Courtney:Okay. So. The bear is really THE BEST moment in the whole book. I mean, here you are reading about how these two guys who hate each other are going to need to hunt deer all winter, and there’s all this snow, and they just have to SURVIVE… and then next moment, Jack is being chased down by a bear, and Ate is close on the bear’s trail. It’s like a scene out of a cartoon! And what makes this moment even better is how pivotal it is in the Jack and Ate relationship – this is the moment that Ate first calls Jack “Jack” (as opposed to “white boy”). And you can tell that it’s that type of moment where a friendship and brotherhood is born! And you know, it always seems to be those bigger moments when their friendship deepens – like when the guy who had enslaved the two of them come back into their lives for the first time, and Jack thinks that Ate is dead. Or when the two of them decide to take revenge on the men who had made their lives miserable (the guy who had enslaved them, and Jack’s cousin Craster).
Rachel: ALSO, we have to have a moment for when Jack speaks Iroquois in iambic pentameter. It is just such a delicious touch. Also, how EXCITED Ate is to fight in a battle. And their attempt to coerce the other into joining each other’s sphere: Jack wants to show Ate the world of Hamlet, Ate wants to show Jack the world of his school Mohock society. I am tickled to the gills.
Courtney:Yes! There are so many delicious bromance moments in this book! (And bromance is so much more awesome than romance!) So now you just have to let me know which is the next of the books that I should read, and I’ll be ready to hunt that one down!
Rachel: 'cept I can't remember what chronological order they go in. Anyone know?
Court, you and I should talk about books more often. We are just so dem'nd good at it.