Hm. Not quite the overwhelming tale of awesome I expected. It had its moments, but the pace and tone were pretty bland and hardly ever changed. No urgency, no deep, passionate fire, no raging exclamations - drama, damn it! It's about 150 pages too long and to be honest, from what I understand from a very short search on Google, and having now started the biography of her life, Kit Kavanagh was a damn sight more brutal than the rather sappy and dim girl of this piece (I found no great intellect or supreme resourcefulness) - she has stuck a metal bar through a sergeant's leg already as a girl. Not to mention she was almost a decade older and rather well educated at the time she joined the army.
Attempting to rate a fiction book whilst keeping the historical side out of it would be easier if the author hadn't put an historical note in the back detailing bits of Kit's life, which is an invite to go and confirm for yourselves just how much of Kit wasn't in this book. And of course, the author only detailed the bits of Kit's life that tied in with her version of Kit's life as far as I can tell. It was stated that she had read the biography.
However, keeping the historical side out of it, I'm not quite as disappointed as I was with Song of the Sea Maid, but where Dawnay was strong in the first half and a sop in the next, Kit was kind of placid the whole way through.
Missing pieces that are way more interesting:
-Kit was almost 30 years old when she joined the troops, not this 19-year-old of this version. I feel the author may have used her fictional youth to create more emphasis on Ross teaching her and being a mentor (so she'd fall for him) and to induce a feeling of innocence rather than a sexualised woman, who Kit seems to have been comfortable as. To be honest, it's a disservice to Kit, and there's no reason why a nigh-on-30-year-old woman dressed as a man cannot be a alluded to as the 'pretty dragoon', which actually happened. Maybe an adult with a strong grasp of herself was beyond the author's interest or skill, but I've no basis for comparison for this author's work, so maybe it's just a one-off.
- Upon finding her husband during the war with another woman, she bit the woman's nose off. In this version she gets all weepy and woe is me. She remarried him in the army before her comrades after being outed.
- She already had two children with Richard and was pregnant with the third when Richard disappeared. In this version she has no children, and actually loses the ability because of a musket wound. She really did suffer a musket wound (which eventually led to her exposure) which may have rendered her no longer able to bear children, but she was already a mother, thrice over. I feel the author probably didn't want to represent her as some kind of child deserter (she left her children with her mother and a nurse), but it actually takes away a hell of a lot of drama that could have been had. Instead the old cliche of 'woman loses ability to have children she didn't know she wanted' rears its ugly head on the great road of 'you cannot write about women without alluding to reproduction and the heartbreak of losing it'. Especially irritating when this was not the case, besides the fact that a woman addicted to warfare might actually not have wanted any children anyway.
-The woman who declared Kit was the father of her child seemed to have been a slighted woman (a woman whose advances did't work on Kit) rather than some heiress and, though Kit did accept the paternity to conceal her sex (though she was friggin' unhappy about the lies), the child in question died within a month of birth. Again, the whole 'I really wanted a child' thing was tediously drawn out with this story. Though to be fair, Kit does die just after Bianca's child comes to visit her, because dead Captain Ross is calling - eventually she abandons her child. Priorities, love.
-She was actually a damn good looter and probably a pretty good brawler considering her taste for war and the respect of her comrades. In this version she's a bit flouncy with the more 'immoral' sides of the battle and always trying to do her best to be seen as generous and kind. Meh.
Not missing bits:
-She did in fact have a metal dick created. It's kind of odd as this character doesn't seem the type... The real Kit? Probably would have asked for a ten-incher.
I think it's a very tepid rendition of the life of this woman who sounds so marvellously more interesting in the auto/biography, even though I'm only on page 17 or so, but who has had her most interesting and startling details, ones that would give us a fuller idea of her morals and ideals, removed and restricted, so she can ride into the distance with Captain Ross, because after Richard and Ross she went through two husbands (she died Christian Davies). Then again, I've not read the whole biography yet, maybe she gets mega boring.
I think the rule is if you're going to write about a character in history then use the history. There's no reason why all the points above could not have been included for a better story and no need to change what's actually recorded, because it hasn't made it more dramatic or inspiring. Otherwise, make that shit up and create a fictional heroine - Kit could have been the inspiration here rather than the subject. I'd be really feckin' irritated if someone took Michael Faraday's history, changed it so he had kids (because he and his wife couldn't) to show what a great father he'd have made. Don't use a name to sell a book unless you're true to who they were, it doesn't mean you have to copy every single detail, but when details are there... You can't 'perfect' a woman who was by no means perfect, but you can give us an extraordinary story of a courageous and persistent woman whose character wasn't faultless without us disliking her because of those faults. I believe those 'faults' are probably what the men in her life loved most. It's the toxic fairytale dream that removes a woman's 'questionable' character for the sake of a soppy happy ending and a 'love me because I'm so sweet and kind and lovely' vibe. I'm not saying she wasn't, but it wasn't all she was. It seems to me Kit's ending was happy enough already without the dilution.
It seems this book irritated me more than I realised.