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Saturday, October 19, 2019

Review: The Boy with Blue Trousers

Title: The Boy with Blue Trousers

Author: Carol Jones
Publisher: 13th June 2019 by HarperCollins Publishers Australia/Head of Zeus
Pages: 320 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: historical fiction
My Rating: 4 crowns

On the goldfields of 19th-century Australia, two very different girls are trying to escape their past.
1856, China.
In the mulberry groves of the Pearl River Delta, eighteen-year-old Little Cat carries a terrible secret. And so, in disguise as a boy in blue trousers, she makes the long and difficult passage to Australia, a faraway land of untold riches where it is said the rivers run with gold.
1857, Australia.
Violet Hartley has arrived off the boat from England, fleeing scandal back home. Like the Chinese immigrants seeking their fortunes on the goldfields, Violet is seduced by the promise of a new frontier. Then she meets Little Cat, a woman who, like her, is trying to escape her past.
As their fates inextricably, devastatingly entwine, their story becomes one of freedom, violence, love and vengeance, echoing across the landscapes of two great continents.
My Thoughts

The Boy With Blue Trousers set in China and Australia during the 1850s is highly engaging historical fiction. From paddy fields to goldfields, this is the story of two young women who, for differing reasons, are escaping one life in search for a new one. When the rules of two culturally different societies force these women to rise above the life often dictated to them at the time. 

There are some interesting issues going on, testament to Carol certainly having done her homework. With themes of race, family, societal expectations, gender status, starting anew - there is much on offer for the reader. I very much enjoyed both the European and Chinese gender role descriptions for both male and females as they play out between the four leading couples. I also found Carol’s writing of place and time to be very evocative - whether it be a village in China or the Victorian desert - the reader is transported easily through the detail and imagery provided. 

Both female leads are given over half the novel to develop their characters which works well. As Little Cat and Violet face their own dilemmas, you are given a complete picture of their motivations and struggles. Although I appreciated Violet’s story, I was not a fan and far more enjoyed Little Cat with both the literal and inner journey she found herself on. There are also many well developed secondary characters who play crucial roles, even if in the initial stages, they play an important role in the story as a whole. I particularly enjoyed Young Wu and how cleverly Carol gave us crucial insight into his thoughts that assisted us appreciating his evolution throughout the tale. 

If you are looking for a unique immersion into a classic goldrush story, then The Boy With Blue Trousers will certainly capture your attention. With an in depth look into two cultures history surrounding the event, I definitely recommend this book. 

‘This thought threatened to bring tears to her eyes but she squeezed the lids tight and fought them back. She could not afford to draw attention to herself. She needed to blend in, to become just another boy in blue trousers bound for New Gold Mountain.’

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release.

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