“I asked a man in prison once how he happened to be there, and he said he had stolen a pair of shoes. I told him if he had stolen a railroad, he would be a United States Senator.”
— Mary Harris “Mother” Jones.
The early 1900s is an epic time in American history and Moonstone, Colorado, is a harsh place to live. In Gilded Mountain, author Kate Manning introduces readers to Sylvie Pelletier, an unforgettable teenager who bravely exposes the corruption that enriches her father’s employers.
Sylvie is a first-generation American and the daughter of French-Canadian parents. To help put food on the table, the sixteen-year-old serves as an apprentice to the editor of the local newspaper. But when she is offered a temporary position as a personal assistant, she leaves her family’s dilapidated mountain cabin to work in the opulent manor house of the Padgetts, exploitative owners of the marble-mining company that employs her father. “Countess” Inge is charming, Mr. Padgett is lecherous, but it’s their son Jasper who has her affections.
The town of Moonstone is roiling with discontent. Labor conditions are dangerous, the camp is primitive, and what provisions can be had must be bought at the overpriced company store with company scrip. A handsome union organizer, along with labor leader Mary Harris “Mother” Jones, is stirring up the quarry workers. The company hires union busters and the Pinkertons to quell the protests.
Gilded Mountain is drawn from the true stories of powerful robber barons and the immigrants who make them rich. Sylvie’s vivid first-person narrative and deeply sympathetic characters captured my imagination and didn’t let go. 5 stars.