Bloody Jack is a book I definitely recommend getting in the Audible version. The narrator of this book does an incredible job bringing to life the different accents and personalities of 1780s England. I don’t think I would have enjoyed the book half as much if I had read it.
Story: Little Mary’s family is taken by the plague, leaving her with no recourse but the streets, workhouses, or eventual prostitution. She joins a gang of street kids surviving on their wits, lucky enough to find a leader who doesn’t abuse his members. But when the doctors need more cadavers for science, Mary soon discovers that they aren’t above taking specimens right off the streets – cutting down the street kids. So Mary decides life as a girl is too difficult, boys have much more freedom, and takes on the identity of Jack. She signs on and sets sail on the HMS dolphin as a cabin boy. Life is tough on the lowest rungs of the ship hierarchy – and hiding her gender will make it that much more difficult for Mary Jacky Faber.
Author Meyer does a good job of giving a pretty harrowing account of life in London for the poor and then the deprivations of ship life. It can be an incredibly depressing read as a result but the historical aspects and understanding the historical milieu do make it time well spent.
Mary and her firends/shipmates are not necessarily admirable characters but they feel much more like real people as a result. I’m not quite sure I’d give this to my 11 year old to read but this would be a great book for older kids with a greater sense of the world and who could better handle the depressing nature of the story.
As noted earlier, the Audible version of this is quite amazing. Really brings the era to life.