1830. When you think of life approximately 30 years before the American Civil War, you think of spoiled southern belles who rarely leave their plantations, let alone work. This was a shock to me, this story. I had no idea women were actually working in mills during this time. But really, I feel silly now for not having realized it sooner. But what happened to the cotton after the slaves worked it on the plantations? It had to go somewhere.
The problem is that most novels during this time period focus on the southern belles and their slaves. So I love this book; I love it for being different and bringing to me a bit of history I did not know about, about the workings of the mills, about the boarding houses and the rules, about the town of Lowell, which truly did exist, and the murder of a girl.
I also love the heroine...or should I say heroines? Once again Kate Alcott delivers a book chock full of strong women. These women show strength every single day...by leaving their farms and families and all they know to work in a mill, to live with what at first is strangers. They rise at 4 in the morning and rush to work in appalling conditions just in hopes of making a better life for themselves. Sometimes...they die from this.
These women at some point stand up for themselves or their friends, from the super religious Jane to the sickly Tilda to the boarding house matron. All of them are brave in some way, even the little girl. I smiled ear-to-ear when she threw down her bobbin tray and announced she was leading a strike.
The main heroine, Alice, has not only a battle for justice for her friend, but while not lacking in bravery whilst defending others, must find bravery within herself to step into a world she doesn't feel comfortable in when the mill owner's son takes an avid interest in her. (That sentences was a mouthful, but I don't know how else to say it.)
This novel shows us mill life: the rules about mothers in the workplace, the accidents from unsafe equipment, the coughing up of cotton.
And I love me a good murder trial. I love reading the facts presented, the way the jury reacts, the underhandedness...the conclusion and how people come to that. This story does not disappoint.
Quite simply, I loved this story. This author's style really agrees with me and her stories grab me, hold me, and stay with me. Her heroines are unforgettable. I cannot wait for the next book.
I received this via Edelweiss.