Goldsmith Jones by Sam Taylor-Pye
San Francisco, 1863. Fourteen-year-old Goldsmith Jones is left stranded in crime-ridden, gangland territory. He finds himself living at The Shades, a home to local street kids.
While selling sexual favours downs the Dead Man’s Alley to survive, Jones is charmed by a seaman he knows as Sweet Virginia. Moving further away from the relative security that The Shades and his best friend, Raccoon, offered him, Jones is drawn ever closer to the manipulative Sweet Virginia.
When Raccoon falls gravely ill and is taken to convaless on the rural Rancheria, Jones is left under the controlling powers of the unscrupulous navvy.
Swindled and wrongly accused, he is unexpectedly rescued by the leader of the villanous Suarez Brothers, the charismatic Saul.
Faced with a choice between becoming Saul’s ‘little brother’ and saving Sweet Virginia’s life, Goldsmith Jones must embark on a dangerous journey which will change his young life forever.
Sam Taylor-Pye grew up on the border between Washington state and British Columbia, Canada and currently lives in Kent in the UK. She received her BA from the Open University, and has an MA in Creative Writing. This is her first published novel.
The story takes place in San Francisco in 1863. Goldsmith Jones is 14 years old and has found himself an orphan on the streets. Another street kid finds Jones and takes him under his wing. There Jones learns that prostitution would be the easiest way for him to survive the streets. All the while Jones is trying to figure out who he is and what he wants from this world as he fights to stay alive with gangs and worse on the streets of San Francisco.
This is a brutal and harsh look into how kids were treated at the turn of the last century. They were taken advantage of, used, and then discarded like trash. The poor kid has to find any means to keep themselves alive. This book is quiet hard to read, but as you follow along with Jones you can’t help but hope that he will eventually be free of the abuse he suffers.
You can tell that the author has thoroughly researched San Francisco at the turn of the century and so much more. It is easy to get caught up in the tensions at the end of the civil war, the prejudices faced by many, and the double standards of those that act one way then claim to be another. As you read about Jones it is easy to get lost in this world. It’s brutal and dirty and just like watching it happen in real time.
If you are looking for a great story of San Francisco around the turn of the century and the hard lives that many lived, look no further. But just be aware, this is a very realistic look not to be taken lightly.
I received Goldsmith Jones from Authoright for free. This has in no way influenced my opinion of this book.