Simon the Fiddler
The critically acclaimed, bestselling author of News of the World and Enemy Women returns to Texas in this atmospheric story, set at the end of the Civil War, about an itinerant fiddle player, a ragtag band of musicians with whom he travels trying to make a living, and the charming young Irish lass who steals his heart.In March 1865, the long and bitter War between the States is winding down. Till now, twenty-three-year-old Simon Boudlin has evaded military duty thanks to his slight stature, youthful appearance, and utter lack of compunction about bending the truth. But following a barroom brawl in Victoria, Texas, Simon finds himself conscripted, however belatedly, into the Confederate Army. Luckily his talent with a fiddle gets him a comparatively easy position in a regimental band.Weeks later, on the eve of the Confederate surrender, Simon and his bandmates are called to play for officers and their families from both sides of the conflict. There the quick-thinking, audacious fiddler can’t help but notice the lovely Doris Mary Dillon, an indentured girl from Ireland, who is governess to a Union colonel’s daughter.After the surrender, Simon and Doris go their separate ways. He will travel around Texas seeking fame and fortune as a musician. She must accompany the colonel’s family to finish her three years of service. But Simon cannot forget the fair Irish maiden, and vows that someday he will find her again.Incandescent in its beauty, told in Paulette Jiles’s trademark spare yet lilting style, Simon the Fiddler is a captivating, bittersweet tale of the chances a devoted man will take, and the lengths he will go to fulfill his heart’s yearning.

Simon the Fiddler Details

TitleSimon the Fiddler
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseApr 14th, 2020
PublisherWilliam Morrow
ISBN-139780062966766
Rating
GenreHistorical, Historical Fiction, Fiction, Westerns, Military History, Civil War, War, Romance, Music, Literary Fiction, Literature, 19th Century

Simon the Fiddler Review

  • Angela M
    January 1, 1970
    News of the World is one of my favorite books . Ive been remiss since I read it by not reading more by Paulette Jiles. With this novel, I am once again inspired to get to the others that I havent yet read because I found the writing here to be lovely and the characters wonderful, even though it took a while for me to connect with them.Simon is a young man from Kentucky who travels around playing his music, trying to avoid conscription into the Confederate Army, until he finally is caught in News of the World is one of my favorite books . I’ve been remiss since I read it by not reading more by Paulette Jiles. With this novel, I am once again inspired to get to the others that I haven’t yet read because I found the writing here to be lovely and the characters wonderful, even though it took a while for me to connect with them.Simon is a young man from Kentucky who travels around playing his music, trying to avoid conscription into the Confederate Army, until he finally is caught in Texas near the very end of the war. It is here that he meets up with a “rag tag” group of other musicians and they take to the road, playing their music along the way. Before they begin traveling, Simon meets Doris, a young Irish girl, indentured to a cruel Yankee officer and his family. He becomes even more determined to fulfill his dreams and Doris becomes a part of those dreams. I couldn’t help but me moved by his passion for music, his hopes and dreams for the future and his optimism that he would realize those dreams. The descriptions of how Simon feels about his music are beautiful . “He knew that he did not play music so much as walk into it, as if into a palace of great riches, with rooms opening into other rooms, which opened into still other rooms, and in these rooms were courtyards and fountains with passageways to yet more, mysterious spaces of melody, peculiar intervals, unheard notes.” (This is from an advanced copy.) I loved the camaraderie but felt their journey through Texas to be a little slow moving at times. It was, though, a harrowing journey through dangerous places with dangerous people, but with beautiful descriptions of the landscape, wild horses and wild cattle. It was a journey of three men and a boy playing music with each one meeting their fates. It wasn’t until later in the story that we learn more about Simon’s past and how his mother’s story shapes his dreams of a different life and I found it moving. We don’t learn much about the other musicians until close to the end. I wish I had known more about them earlier. In spite of the slow moving middle, I was taken with the story. I’m not so much of a romantic that I believe in love at first sight, but I thought this turned out to be a beautiful love story, a story of determination and hope. The writing is fabulous and the depiction of the post civil war in Texas was well done . (There’s a little surprise for fans of News of the World but I won’t spoil it. You’ll have to find it out for yourself.) As always, it’s wonderful to read together with my two book buddies Diane and Esil. I received an advanced copy of this book from William Morrow/HarperCollins through Edelweiss.
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  • Will Byrnes
    January 1, 1970
    It was different then. The air was different and the long remote crying of the steamboat whistles as they came down from the Monongahela and Pittsburgh seemed to tell the story of a great nation and a great people with adventure and the look of distance in their eyes, and now it was somehow soiled with the stench of the dead. MacFarland was dead. Lincoln was dead. Neighbors had shot one another dead. It occurred to him that he rarely laughed anymore. Maybe laughter would come back, but it was a It was different then. The air was different and the long remote crying of the steamboat whistles as they came down from the Monongahela and Pittsburgh seemed to tell the story of a great nation and a great people with adventure and the look of distance in their eyes, and now it was somehow soiled with the stench of the dead. MacFarland was dead. Lincoln was dead. Neighbors had shot one another dead. It occurred to him that he rarely laughed anymore. Maybe laughter would come back, but it was a dark sun that had come over the country and a plague of crows. Simon Boudlin had always had music in his blood, his father having been a travelling fiddler himself, but the property his family had in Kentucky was laid waste by the war, sending Simon out into the wider world to make his place. He honed his skills in Ohio, made a living with his instrument whenever possible, and did his best to keep away from conscriptionists, both gray and blue. We meet him in East Texas, where he is valued for the breadth of his song-list, not necessarily his fine playing, as his audiences would have no idea what a great master sounded like. It was a time when there was some money about from smuggling, so he was able to command a good price for his work. Atlanta is in flames, the war is over, but the internet was down, so it took a while for news to spread. Simon is finally dragooned by Confederate minions into an army band, just in time for an addled Union colonel, looking to make a name for himself, to launch a pointless attack. Attacks breed counterattacks, but the pointlessness, well, that particular version of it, soon vanishes, as word of war’s official end finally gets through. Paulette Giles - image from Texas Monthly When the Colonel holds a victory celebration, (Not so much for the battle, but the war. The Confederate forces had actually stormed back and retaken their lost turf from him.) Simon is in the band, and sees a sight that will change his life. Doris Aherne, a nanny for the Colonel’s daughter, catches his eye, both eyes actually, and all other available parts, physical, and spiritual. And the game is afoot. Doris is indentured to Colonel Webb for some defined (but not immediately known to Simon) period of time. Nor does he know when that period is due to end. The conditions of her situation are stark, as she is not allowed a social life, and must contend with the wastrel Colonel’s unwanted advances. He who hears music, feels his solitude peopled at once. ~ Robert BrowningCharacters are the lenses through which we get to see the state of the world in the time and place in which historical novels are set, in this case the Reconstruction era of post-Civil-War Texas. As noted in the opening quote, it was a dark sun that had come over the country, so we are not expecting a joyful rom-com here. But Giles wants us to care about her characters. It is so prevalent, the unlikable character, the cynical character, which keeps intelligence, I feel, at a very low level. It’s easy being cynical, constantly cynical. It’s sort of a fast and dirty way to appear intelligent without really being intelligent. It seems to be very prevalent to the point where any new, young writer starting out almost assumes that they have to take on that attitude. - from the Texas Monthly interviewWe follow Simon as he travels through various parts of Texas, Giles showing us what they were like in the late 1860s. Simon picks up a small group of companions, fellow musicians, a veritable UN of internationality. They get along pretty well, for the most part, enduring the travails of that age. We get another perspective, through Doris, on the situation of women in this world, one that will feel far too familiar. I have my own particular sorrows, loves, delights; and you have yours. But sorrow, gladness, yearning, hope, love, belong to all of us, in all times and in all places. Music is the only means whereby we feel these emotions in their universality. ~H.A. Overstreet Simon embodies the American dream. He is a hard worker, is willing to do whatever he needs to do to amass enough money to buy some land. That he expects this will enhance his chances of winning the lady’s hand adds considerably to his determination. Our Lone Star tour takes us to Galveston, where the guys squat in an abandoned shanty-town, contend with audience members of the violently drunk sort, cope with a misguided groupie, and are faced with a rampant local outbreak of yellow fever. Next stop Houston, the old-fashioned way, by hopping a freight train. They contend with the poverty of musicians, or artists of all ages, and take whatever work they can get to keep a roof over their heads, put some food on the table, if they even had a table, and get some clothes presentable enough to give them a chance at getting more of their true work. They endure the sort of misery the poor have always had to endure from people in uniforms. And confront the sort of official corruption that seems baked into the American character. So it has been in human memory, wild places where the only law is the strength of your good right arm…that’s how it is in all of human memory, Vastness! And Age! And Memories of Eld! It was a time when things were not just challenging per se, but in which the world was unsettled. For example, there is a swath of land between the Rio Grande and the Nueces River which might be part of the USA, or part of Mexico. There are legal challenges aplenty, as one must do serious lawyerly gymnastics to figure out whether a contract made under Mexican law, or Confederate law, or Texan law still binds. On to San Antonio, a city where Giles lived for a time. She is fond of the place, but prefers a more rural existence. Here we get to see it in its infancy. Music's the medicine of the mind. ~ John A. LoganSimon’s affection for Doris grows as they maintain a correspondence, despite her mail being intercepted by her boss. Doris’s perspective is no simple plot device. She is no blushing flower, but a strong young woman, smart, with plans for her future, independent of her employer or a beau. Yet, she remains an indentured servant, subject to the strictures enforced by society and her employer. We are also treated to her wonder as she sees the grandeur of a wide open land. Trees become fewer and fewer and far ahead Doris can see black shapes. Large animals, alert, moving away. She thinks this must be what enchantment is like, when a person is taken into the other world. Her spirits are effervescent now they are away from the Colonel, joy comes back to her and unwraps itself gift by gift. Through it all there is music. I read this as an ink-on-dead-tree ARE, but I imagine an audio version would incorporate much of the music that is noted in the story. We are offered a considerable song list, and listen in as the players discuss what songs to play for what audiences, and in which order. There is a plan to crafting a performance that will be news to most of us. Why this song first, why that song last? What is the likely impact of a quick piece, or a slow one? How are song sequences constructed? There is an education to be had just in reading those passages alone. One element of the central narrative is how Simon can continue to make music in this chaotic world. It is a paean to the human need for music. And the power of the drive of those gifted with musical talent to bring their gifts to the world. Giles says in her site, It is a story of music and what those who create music must endure in a rough-and-tumble world. It is no accident that Doris also possesses a musical gift. The musicians name many of the tunes they play, a list too long to include here. I have, however, linked a few in EXTRA STUFF, for your listening pleasure. I hope that as publication nears, a more complete list will turn up on the author’s site. Without music, life is a journey through a desert. ~ Pat ConroyReaders of News of the World (a totally amazing book, must read-stuff) will enjoy occasional appearances by one Jefferson Kyle Kidd, before he had set about traveling the Southwest delivering news from across the world to news-starved towns. If there are other characters from Giles’ other books that turn up I am not well-enough versed in her oeuvre to have detected them. Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life. ~Berthold Auerbach Paulette Giles is simply a beautiful writer. She writes engaging characters, puts them in interesting situations, and teaches us something of the place and time while doing so. She is deft in incorporating into her tales detailed specifics that give her stories the air of authenticity. And has a gift for beautiful narrative, capturing some of the rapture of the natural world in addition to portraying the roughness of new, rough civilization. While Simon the Fiddler may not be the huge triumph that News of the World was, it is still a wonderful read, top notch historical literature by one of our best writers, working at the peak of her skills, second fiddle to no one. If music be the food of love, play on. ~ William ShakespeareReview posted – October 25, 2019Publication date – April 14, 2020=============================EXTRA STUFFThe author’s personal websiteThis interview in Texas Monthly is not specific to this book, but offers a lot of insight into Giles’ writing – definitely worth your time - True Western - by Jeff SalamonMy review of Giles’ incredible News of the WorldPartial Songlist-----The Minstrel Boy - by Derek Warfield and the Young Wolfe Tones-----Wayfaring Stranger - by Charlie Haden – Seriously doubt any 1860s band would have produced a version sounding like this, but I soooooo love this one-----Blarney Pilgrim - from Irish Songs, The Irish Folk & Celtic Spirit-----The Braes of Killiecrankie - The Corries-----Cotton-Eyed Joe - by Benny Martin----- Cumberland Gap - by 2nd South Carolina String Band-----Death and the Sinner - by The Home Billies----- Eighth of January - by Blaine Sprouse----- The Fiddler’s Dream - by Molsky’s Mountain Drifters-----Glendy Burke - by Tom Roush-----Hard Times - by Sarah Merritt-----The Hog-Eye Man - by Jim Taylor and his friends-----Home Sweet Home - by Mitch Meadows, Ron Bonkowski, Pat Matheson and Buddy Griffin-----Leather Britches - by Bobby Hicks and JD Crowe-----Little Liza Jane - by the Black and Tan String Band----- Lorena - by Mark Dill-----The Lost Child - by The Stripling Brothers-----Mississippi Sawyer - by Tommy Jackson----- Neil Gow’s Lament - by Alaasdair Fraser and Paul Machlis----- Nightingale Waltz - The American Civil War Band and Field Music-----Red River Valley - by Paul Frauenfelder and Dave Muhlethaler-----Robin Adair - by William Coulter, Deby Benton Grosjean & Friends----- When Johnny Comes Marching Home - by Charles Ingalls
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  • Beata
    January 1, 1970
    Review to follow, all I can say now is that I loved it ....A big thank-you to Paulette Jiles, William Morrow & Edelweiss !
  • Diane S ☔
    January 1, 1970
    3.5 The Civil War is near the end. Simon, had managed, helped by looking younger than his years, to escape having to serve in either army. His luck runs out, when the conscriptors, grab him and he finds himself in the Confederate army, playing music in a rag tag regimental band. There he will meet two other musicians and a young boy who pretended to be older than his actual age. At wars end these four will set out together trying to make a living, playing here and there. Simon has a goal, he has 3.5 The Civil War is near the end. Simon, had managed, helped by looking younger than his years, to escape having to serve in either army. His luck runs out, when the conscriptors, grab him and he finds himself in the Confederate army, playing music in a rag tag regimental band. There he will meet two other musicians and a young boy who pretended to be older than his actual age. At wars end these four will set out together trying to make a living, playing here and there. Simon has a goal, he has fallen in love, yes love at first sight, but he intends to win this young lady, come hell or high water.Once again Jiles is spot on with her portrayal of time and place. The details, the politics, the confusion in the South at wars end, serve to authenticate this time. The characters are well rounded and for the most part likable. I was loosely reminded of Chaucer's Canterbury Tale, because as the friends move from place to place, the band looses a member, one through no fault of his own. As they leave though, we learn their backstories, and why they joined the conflict. The book is extremely well written. I did feel that it latter at certain times, which is refected in my rating. Also, though I liked all the characters, I missed one that tugged on my heart strings, a sympathetic character. Despite that this book was a good one, well worth reading and a different type of character.This was Angela, Lise, and my, February read and as always I so appreciate my two bookie friends.ARC from Librarything.
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  • Dorie - Cats&Books :)
    January 1, 1970
    This was a 3 and ½ rounded up to a 4 for the wonderful premise and writing.I so wanted to love this book as much as I did News of the World. I love Paulette Jiles writing, it is so beautifully descriptive. I felt the atmosphere of the end of the civil war in Texas, the poverty, the destruction, the loss of homes and really their way of life is gone. I just didnt feel the connection to Simon as I did to Captain Kidd in News of the World. We learn that Simon had been able to avoid being This was a 3 and ½ rounded up to a 4 for the wonderful premise and writing.I so wanted to love this book as much as I did News of the World. I love Paulette Jiles writing, it is so beautifully descriptive. I felt the atmosphere of the end of the civil war in Texas, the poverty, the destruction, the loss of homes and really their way of life is gone. I just didn’t feel the connection to Simon as I did to Captain Kidd in News of the World. We learn that Simon had been able to avoid being conscripted into the army because of his small stature and youthful appearance, he had been traveling around playing his fiddle for money.However just at the end of the war he is forced to put on a Confederate uniform and play for the officers . “on the eve of the Confederate surrender, Simon and his bandmates are called to play for officers and their families from both sides of the conflict. There the quick-thinking, audacious fiddler can’t help but notice the lovely Doris Mary Dillon, an indentured girl from Ireland, who is governess to a Union colonel’s daughter."For 2/3rds of the book we follow Simon and his bandmates as they make their way through Texas, playing multiple bars and gatherings in their hopes of making money to provide them shelter and food. It seemed that the trip just went on and on. Simon was determined to get to San Antonio where he knew that Colonel Webb was stationed and that was where Doris would be. He had been able to make contact with her and had been corresponding with her. He wants only to find her and take her away from what had become an abusive situation in the household.The last third of the book deals with Simon’s plan to free Doris from the Webb household and marry her. There is more action here with a fight, imprisonment and then finally a satisfying ending.This was a hard book to review. If you don’t mind a book that is slow moving you will enjoy the story and beautiful writing in this novel. I will look forward to Ms. Jiles next adventure.I received an ARC of this novel from the publisher through Edelweiss.This novel is set to publish on April 19, 2020.
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  • Esil
    January 1, 1970
    I loved the title. I found the time period and setting interesting. The writing was good. But I just couldnt get into the story. Unfortunately, reading Simon the Fiddler felt like a real slog to me. In his early 20s, Simon is an orphan making his way through the south toward the end of the American Civil war. He is conscripted against his will, and meets a small group of other musicians. Once the war ends, they make their way into Texas, as Simon tries to find Doris, a young Irish maid he caught I loved the title. I found the time period and setting interesting. The writing was good. But I just couldn’t get into the story. Unfortunately, reading Simon the Fiddler felt like a real slog to me. In his early 20s, Simon is an orphan making his way through the south toward the end of the American Civil war. He is conscripted against his will, and meets a small group of other musicians. Once the war ends, they make their way into Texas, as Simon tries to find Doris, a young Irish maid he caught sight of at one of the band’s gigs. I really liked Doris, but most of the story focused on Simon, his band members and their adventures. I just didn’t feel engaged or particularly interested in Simon and his challenges on the road to finding Doris. It felt a bit too predictable and slapstick — lots of action but a bit thin on emotional depth. But don’t trust my reaction. This was a monthly buddy read with Angela and Diane, and they liked it more than I did. Thanks to Edelweiss and the publisher for an opportunity to read an advance copy.
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  • DeAnn
    January 1, 1970
    3.75 musical stars (rounded up)Being a huge fan of News of the World I was super excited to read this new book from Paulette Jiles. I did enjoy this one, but admittedly it has a slower pace and the first half took me a while to read.This one is set at the very end of the Civil War and features Simon, a fiddler, who must be extremely resilient to survive the turbulent times. Simon is just 23 years old and has somehow evaded serving time in the Confederate Army. His luck runs out in Texas and hes 3.75 musical stars (rounded up)Being a huge fan of “News of the World” – I was super excited to read this new book from Paulette Jiles. I did enjoy this one, but admittedly it has a slower pace and the first half took me a while to read.This one is set at the very end of the Civil War and features Simon, a fiddler, who must be extremely resilient to survive the turbulent times. Simon is just 23 years old and has somehow evaded serving time in the Confederate Army. His luck runs out in Texas and he’s forced into service, luckily his talent with the fiddle puts him mostly out of harm’s way. The story then tracks Simon as he moves around, putting a rag-tag band together and trying to make ends meet. Along the way, he falls in love with a beautiful Irish governess and he spends quite a bit of time trying to figure out a way to make a good life with her. There’s yellow fever, scoundrel sheriffs, and the general lawlessness of Texas to deal with for him.Paulette Jiles has an interesting writing style where she doesn’t completely spell out what is going on and the reader is left to fill in some of the pieces. It reminds me a bit of “Lonesome Dove” and books by Kent Haruf. This one didn’t capture my heart as much as “News of the World” but I was still invested by the time I finished. I must tell you that I hadn’t quite finished it one night and I dreamed about it and worried for the characters! If you are up for a slower read, this one is recommended.This was a fun buddy read with Dorie.Thank you to Edelweiss, Paulette Jiles and William Morrow for an early copy of this one to read in return for an honest review. This one is out next month -- 4.14.2020
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  • Elizabeth of Silver's Reviews
    January 1, 1970
    Simon was able to avoid being conscripted during the war between the states, but on one of his fiddling events he was caught and sent to the front.Luckily he was conscripted at the very end, and being in the band had allowed him to do a show when the war ended. At the show he saw a girl he couldnt keep his eyes off of, and a girl he had to ask around about. He made it his job to earn some money and come back for her.He snuck out of the army compound without discharge papers and headed to the Rio Simon was able to avoid being conscripted during the war between the states, but on one of his fiddling events he was caught and sent to the front.Luckily he was conscripted at the very end, and being in the band had allowed him to do a show when the war ended. At the show he saw a girl he couldn’t keep his eyes off of, and a girl he had to ask around about. He made it his job to earn some money and come back for her.He snuck out of the army compound without discharge papers and headed to the Rio Grande along with his fiddle with hopes of finding Doris.We follow Simon and three fellow musicians as they make their way in a boat to San Antonio.When they landed, they had to hide from patrols and find lodging and work. They thankfully found lodging in an abandoned home and found work at different functions and saloons.They had adventures, and Simon still never forgot about Doris Dillon.SIMON THE FIDDLER has Ms. Jiles' excellent writing and beautiful detail, but it was a very slow read. I actually was disappointed since I loved NEWS OF THE WORLD, and was looking for a character to love like Captain Kidd.If you have time to read beautiful, detailed descriptions and also learn about music, SIMON THE FIDDLER will be a book for you. This book was not a favorite for me. It dragged and only became interesting in the last 10% of the book. It actually was a struggle to continue reading. 3/5This book was given to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
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  • Stephanie Crowe
    January 1, 1970
    The west comes alive under the pen of Paulette Jiles. She takes the reader back in time to experience first hand life in Texas after the Civil War. Simon is a flawed character whose anger when uncontrolled gets him into trouble, but he has a creative musical side that adds character to his personality.His attraction and affection for an indentured Irish girl, Doris Mary Dillon certainly brings romance to life early Texas style when relationships were much more restrained. It is easy to lose The west comes alive under the pen of Paulette Jiles. She takes the reader back in time to experience first hand life in Texas after the Civil War. Simon is a flawed character whose anger when uncontrolled gets him into trouble, but he has a creative musical side that adds character to his personality.His attraction and affection for an indentured Irish girl, Doris Mary Dillon certainly brings romance to life early Texas style when relationships were much more restrained. It is easy to lose oneself in reading Jiles adventures. This story is as good as News of the World which I loved. I always eagerly await her tales of the west! A wonderful read!
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  • Phyllis
    January 1, 1970
    This is about a young fiddler at the end of the civil war who, with a few other musicians, travels around Texas playing in saloons, parties and weddings, just about anywhere they can find work. It is also about their intensity for the music they play. Simon falls in love with a young governess from Ireland and decides to follow her to San Antonio. 4 stars. I don't think it compares to News of the World but, then again, what will?
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  • Ron Charles
    January 1, 1970
    Jiless new novel takes place about five years earlier, as the Civil War is winding down. Although a slightly younger Captain Kidd makes a cameo appearance, Simon the Fiddler is not so much a prequel to News of the World as a companion to it.Our hero, Simon Boudlin, is a spunky, red-headed musician who has managed to avoid fighting in the war because he can pass for a 15-year-old boy. Also, people love to hear him play so much that theyre inclined to protect him, even hide him a reminder of what Jiles’s new novel takes place about five years earlier, as the Civil War is winding down. Although a slightly younger Captain Kidd makes a cameo appearance, “Simon the Fiddler” is not so much a prequel to “News of the World” as a companion to it.Our hero, Simon Boudlin, is a spunky, red-headed musician who has managed to avoid fighting in the war because he can pass for a 15-year-old boy. Also, people love to hear him play so much that they’re inclined to protect him, even hide him — a reminder of what a cherished place musicians once held before the advent of recorded music. “His repertoire seemed to be without end,” Jiles writes. “He had a bottomless supply of waltzes, jigs, reels, hornpipes, and slow airs. Some of the slow airs could bring men and women to a standstill, their eyes brimming with tears for a remembered love or a certain long-lost valley at twilight or another country without war, taken by emotions of loss and exile for which they had no. . . .To read the rest of this review, go to The Washington Post:https://www.washingtonpost.com/entert...
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  • Darla
    January 1, 1970
    Music is a magical tonic that opens doors in minds and hearts. I was late to the party in reading "News of the World," so when I saw this new book from Paulette Jiles pop up on NetGalley I jumped at the chance to read it before publication. With Simon, the fiddler, we once again are transported to Texas in the aftermath of the Civil War. What I really liked about this book was the tremendous sense of place and time that you get from Jiles in her evocative prose. You can see what Simon sees with Music is a magical tonic that opens doors in minds and hearts. I was late to the party in reading "News of the World," so when I saw this new book from Paulette Jiles pop up on NetGalley I jumped at the chance to read it before publication. With Simon, the fiddler, we once again are transported to Texas in the aftermath of the Civil War. What I really liked about this book was the tremendous sense of place and time that you get from Jiles in her evocative prose. You can see what Simon sees with clarity and experience the life of a wandering minstrel. His quest to save Doris is ambitious and he does not lose sight of his vision to settle down with her on their own piece of land. We also see bits of what Doris experiences in Captain Webb's household and Captain Kidd makes a cameo appearance. Hurray! As with "News" there are some moments of extreme peril in Simon's journey, and a satisfying ending that goes against prevailing odds. I do think my favorite part was the way Simon describes his escapes into the world of music and the bonds he forms with other musicians along the way. Delightful!Thank you to Harper Collins and NetGalley for a DRC in exchange for an honest review.
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  • Asheley
    January 1, 1970
    Simon is a musician, traveling around playing his fiddle for anyone that will listen. The Civil War has been going on for years now and he has managed to avoid being forced to fight for either side because of his youthful look and his ability to lie and run. All of that changes when, at the very end of the Civil War, he is caught and made to join the Confederacy. He fights during the last land battle of the war, way down in South Texas. Simon ends up getting put in jail after the war ends Simon is a musician, traveling around playing his fiddle for anyone that will listen. The Civil War has been going on for years now and he has managed to avoid being forced to fight for either side because of his youthful look and his ability to lie and run. All of that changes when, at the very end of the Civil War, he is caught and made to join the Confederacy. He fights during the last land battle of the war, way down in South Texas. Simon ends up getting put in jail after the war ends because fights a Union soldier that has stolen all of his belongings, including his beloved fiddle.Simon has two big goals in life: to buy some land and to find a good wife. It is while he is playing music for a Union officer’s party that he finds THE GIRL: Doris Dillon. She is beautiful and Irish, and she has stolen his heart. The thing is, she is indentured to Officer Webb, bound by agreement to work for him for three years. Simon has decided to wait for her and during this time, he travels around Texas with some of the other members of the Regimental Band he played with during the war. He plans to keep saving up his money so he can buy that land and he can live happily ever after, with Doris.I completely nerded out while I read Simon the Fiddler. I still am, actually. If you read and loved Mrs. Jiles’ last book, News of the World, you may remember that Simon was one of the characters in that story. Not one of the main characters, but his role was very important. Well THIS story focuses on Simon as the center of the story and actually takes place a few years before News of the World. So we essentially get to see how Simon got to the place he was when we met him first.For a book-lover, this is one of the best things ever!! It’s like two worlds collide, except both stories occur in the same place: Texas in the 1800’s, after the Civil War, when the United States flag once again flew over Texas. There is a general post-war “uncivilized” feel to the place. The countryside is hot and overrun with bandits and thieves, the terrain war torn in some places. It is across this Texas that Captain Kidd journeyed to bring Johanna home in News of the World, and it is across this same Texas that Simon and the rest of his band play their songs for money. Money to be saved so Simon could buy his land.The thing that I loved most about this story is the post-war feel to it. Ms. Jiles is super-good at setting the scene, and while I was reading Simon the Fiddler, I felt almost a little bit off-balanced here and there. What I mean is that there is confusion in the entire area about how things should be now that the war is over. Life hasn’t quite gone back to the way things were before the war started, and some places still don’t have accurate, up-to-date news. I love that I could read and put myself in this place, just imagine how uncertain that may have been for people. Back before the time of the internet and news that comes in-real-time. I remember feeling this with News of the World too, but this story takes place earlier, in the immediate time after the war, so I think that confused feeling was slightly more pronounced and accurate.I also love the setting. LOVE IT. The story feels hot and sweaty and sandy. It feels lawless. It feels like saloons and pubs, like wagons and horses. It feels like old, worn-out war uniforms all over the place because those were the clothes that many people had. It feels like most of the country is still trying to figure out what to do to make life go back to normal.The story is plenty different, though. While Captain Kidd and Johanna met up and joined for travels early in News of the World, in this story it takes a good while for Simon to meet up with the lovely Doris. Life is not easy for either of them and there is patience required. Simon still travels around (loved that!) but it felt like his travels were a little bit slower because it takes him a while to connect with Doris. This story actually feels a little bit slower all around, probably because saving money takes a while. I’m not entirely sure that Simon’s story punched me in the heart the way Captain Kidd and Johanna did, but that would have been difficult for him to do. An older, rugged man and a young orphaned, kidnapped girl together was bound to pull at my heart. It is for this reason that it isn’t exactly fair to Simon to compare his story to that of Captain Kidd and Johanna (like I’m clearly doing here).But, listen, I loved this. I loved it so much. I can’t wait for my husband to read it next, because we have shared Paulette Jiles’ books in the past. You certainly do not have to have read the previous book before this one, but it made me infinitely happier and more excited to find out that I knew Simon already.I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review. Thank you, William Morrow Books!Find this review and more like it on my blog, Into the Hall of Books!
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  • Peter Tillman
    January 1, 1970
    Here's the WSJ's fine review. Reviewer Katherine Powers received the Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing from the National Book Critics Circle, for just this sort of work:https://www.wsj.com/articles/simon-th...(Paywalled. As always, I'm happy to email a copy to non-subscribers) Excerpts:From the book:"Wherever he lifted his fiddle to his shoulder he commanded a good price and he saved every coin carefully, because when the war was over, he was going to buy a piece of land, live Here's the WSJ's fine review. Reviewer Katherine Powers received the Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing from the National Book Critics Circle, for just this sort of work:https://www.wsj.com/articles/simon-th...(Paywalled. As always, I'm happy to email a copy to non-subscribers) Excerpts:From the book:"Wherever he lifted his fiddle to his shoulder he commanded a good price and he saved every coin carefully, because when the war was over, he was going to buy a piece of land, live on it with a beautiful and accomplished wife, and play increasingly complex pieces of music. Hard cash and children would, somehow, come of their own accord.That’s the plan."Simon's prized possessions have been stolen by some light-fingered Yankee:"... after the official surrender, Simon spots the perpetrator with his prize hat on his pumpkin head and his fiddle case under his arm. He knocks him flat and, as a final salute, kicks him in the head—landing himself in the slammer. Only his virtuosity on the fiddle saves him from severe punishment when he is called upon to provide musical entertainment at Fort Brown for a party of Union and Confederate officers celebrating the peace." Simon's hearts desire is "Doris Dillon, indentured servant to the Webbs. A “black-haired girl with blue sea-cloud eyes,” she is beautiful, demure, intelligent of face, small in person. She has emigrated from Ireland and serves as governess to the daughter of Colonel Webb, a heavy drinker and all-around nasty piece of work. Webb’s wife, too, is no heart’s delight: a mean, resentful woman whose many grievances include seeing that her husband has designs on the lovely young governess. As for their daughter, Josephina: She is a spoiled little miss, a liar and backstabber, entirely worthy of her parents."Reviewer Katherine Powers doesn't like this one quite as much as “News of the World” -- but it sounds like my sort of book. High priority TBR.
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  • Kim McGee
    January 1, 1970
    I was a huge fan of NEWS OF THE WORLD and was over the moon to be back in the wilds of old Texas again. This is a story of a good man who doesn't want to be violent (unless you touch his fiddle) but the world doesn't always allow him to stay silent or defenseless. Simon does his best to protect his fellow musicians and earn the love of an Irish governess he falls in love with from afar. He is a gentle soul caught in a violent wind of post-civil war Texas. The story is woven with peppery phrases I was a huge fan of NEWS OF THE WORLD and was over the moon to be back in the wilds of old Texas again. This is a story of a good man who doesn't want to be violent (unless you touch his fiddle) but the world doesn't always allow him to stay silent or defenseless. Simon does his best to protect his fellow musicians and earn the love of an Irish governess he falls in love with from afar. He is a gentle soul caught in a violent wind of post-civil war Texas. The story is woven with peppery phrases and soulful ballads with characters you care deeply about. You finish the last page and just want more - it doesn't get any better than that. Every Texan should read this as well as lovers of well written western historical fiction and stories where the kind-hearted hero gets the girl. My thanks to the publisher for the advance copy.
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  • Robin
    January 1, 1970
    I loved the authors earlier work NEWS OF THE WORLD and was hoping for a similar masterpiece, but alas, it is not to be. The vivid descriptions are here, placing me right in the Texas countryside of 1865, but the characters are not as strong as the wonderful Captain Kidd. The titular Simon and 3 buddies leave the Confederate Army without properly discharging, and try to carve out a life playing music in and around Texas. Simon has a short fuse and doesnt like being around people, two traits that I loved the author’s earlier work NEWS OF THE WORLD and was hoping for a similar masterpiece, but alas, it is not to be. The vivid descriptions are here, placing me right in the Texas countryside of 1865, but the characters are not as strong as the wonderful Captain Kidd. The titular Simon and 3 buddies leave the Confederate Army without properly discharging, and try to carve out a life playing music in and around Texas. Simon has a short fuse and doesn’t like being around people, two traits that don’t really mesh with being a traveling musician. Simon yearns to find the right girl, buy a large plot of land, and live a quiet life playing his music. He spies a young woman during an encounter with the Union Army and decides she is the one for him. Illogically, his entire focus becomes finding this woman and marrying her. The story becomes long and slow, with much detail of location and music. Then, after such a slow buildup, the ending feels rushed and forced. Thanks to Edelweiss for providing an ARC.
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  • Mary Lins
    January 1, 1970
    It seems logical to begin a review of Simon the Fiddler, by Paulette Jiles, by mentioning my adoration of News of the World, her previous novel, and Im thrilled to report that this one is just as engaging, entertaining, suspenseful, picturesque, educational, and character-driven (and my great state of Texas is almost a character, too!) as News! What a delight!Jiles skillfully reveals the titular Simon and his backstory as the novel progresses. Simon is in his early 20s, has luscious red hair, It seems logical to begin a review of “Simon the Fiddler”, by Paulette Jiles, by mentioning my adoration of “News of the World”, her previous novel, and I’m thrilled to report that this one is just as engaging, entertaining, suspenseful, picturesque, educational, and character-driven (and my great state of Texas is almost a character, too!) as “News”! What a delight!Jiles skillfully reveals the titular Simon and his backstory as the novel progresses. Simon is in his early 20s, has luscious red hair, and is a fiddler of the first order. We meet him trying evade conscription in the Confederate army, even as the Civil War is ending, as he attempts to earn money for his dream of owning land in the country far away from people. Simon needs his “alone time”, yet he joins a “merry band” of fellow musicians who travel around Texas looking for work in saloons and wharf houses. Early on Simon experiences “love at first sight” (and don’t knock it – it happens!) as he gazes on Doris Dillon, an Irish immigrant who is contracted for three years with a very nasty Confederate officer as his spoiled daughter’s governess. This is a dysfunctional family of the first order.That’s the set-up, the rest is adventure! Oh the many happy and tragic adventures ALL OVER TEXAS! I was riveted! “Tales of valor and undying love” thinks Simon of telling his grandchildren. But will Simon be able to find Doris and “rescue” her from her villainous captor? Will he be able to buy land on the Texas side of the Red River (if you’re a Texan like me, you’ll be humming “Red River Valley” to yourself throughout? Earworm alert!) Will everything work out or all go to pieces? I was on the edge of my seat, with mixed feeling of hope and dread!“Simon the Fiddler” is a combination of “Lonesome Dove”, “Romeo and Juliet”, “Cinderella”, and “News of the World”. It’s a compelling piece of historical fiction with several wonderful characters I was rooting for throughout. I loved the setting and learning about cities in Texas as they were after the Civil War, not as I know them now. I closed the novel thinking that there was plenty more story to tell of Simon and Doris, so I’m in hope of a sequel!
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  • Bonnye Reed
    January 1, 1970
    Goodreads Winner! January 26, 2020Received February 8, 2020Pub date April 14, 2020
  • Carolyn
    January 1, 1970
    Hauntingly beautiful. Jiles is somehow able to bring Simon and his fiddle to life, so that we hear his music and feel his love for a dark haired Irish girl he has seen only once for a few minutes time. The story is set in south Texas at the end of the Civil War and in the unsettled times following. Jile's research, as always, is meticulous in every carefully drawn detail, but the history is never allowed to overpower the story. I loved Enemy Women and News of the Worldbut Simon the Fiddler is Hauntingly beautiful. Jiles is somehow able to bring Simon and his fiddle to life, so that we hear his music and feel his love for a dark haired Irish girl he has seen only once for a few minutes time. The story is set in south Texas at the end of the Civil War and in the unsettled times following. Jile's research, as always, is meticulous in every carefully drawn detail, but the history is never allowed to overpower the story. I loved Enemy Women and News of the Worldbut Simon the Fiddler is even better.
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  • Kim Bakos
    January 1, 1970
    This was a great story - I'm worried sometimes when it says in the description that is "bittersweet" that it will have a heartbreaking ending and am so happy that this didn't. Won't spoil the ending :) So much is written about the Civil War, but not very much about the period directly afterwards. It was very insightful to read about this time period out in TX, which was still struggling w/ its identity as part of the US at that time.The music in the book had me wanting to look up certain songs This was a great story - I'm worried sometimes when it says in the description that is "bittersweet" that it will have a heartbreaking ending and am so happy that this didn't. Won't spoil the ending :) So much is written about the Civil War, but not very much about the period directly afterwards. It was very insightful to read about this time period out in TX, which was still struggling w/ its identity as part of the US at that time.The music in the book had me wanting to look up certain songs to find out what the sounded like. There were only a few in there that I was familiar with.The character development was superb - you can really get to know each of the characters in this story. The idea of a courtship that took place primarily through letters that couldn't even reveal feelings was very interesting.
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  • Wanda
    January 1, 1970
    I expected to like this more than I did because News of the World is one of my favorite books. That one told a touching story about the trust that grew between two unlikely companions during the course of an adventurous journey. But in this one the characters never connected well enough to feel fully developed and even a cameo by Captain Jefferson Kidd (from News of the World) failed to kindle any life into them. What this did share with the previous book was the lyrical writing and beautifully I expected to like this more than I did because News of the World is one of my favorite books. That one told a touching story about the trust that grew between two unlikely companions during the course of an adventurous journey. But in this one the characters never connected well enough to feel fully developed and even a cameo by Captain Jefferson Kidd (from News of the World) failed to kindle any life into them. What this did share with the previous book was the lyrical writing and beautifully rendered imagery of the Texas frontier. I suspect it would work much better (at least for me) as an audiobook especially if it included the music that was an integral part of the storyline.My thanks to Librarything Early Reviewers and the publisher for an advance copy to review.
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  • Kristen Beverly
    January 1, 1970
    This next book from Paulette Jiles has all the magic of her last book, News of the World. Its about a traveling musician in post Civil War Texas. After Simon falls in love but is forced away, he is determined to find her again. Through it all we see the landscape and life during that that timeframe. Its a wonderfully engrossing tale about a period of Texas we dont hear much about. This next book from Paulette Jiles has all the magic of her last book, News of the World. It’s about a traveling musician in post Civil War Texas. After Simon falls in love but is forced away, he is determined to find her again. Through it all we see the landscape and life during that that timeframe. It’s a wonderfully engrossing tale about a period of Texas we don’t hear much about.
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  • Kerry Pickens
    January 1, 1970
    This is historical romance set in Texas, and the two lovebirds barely know each other. One is a young fiddler and his love interest is a Scottish indentured servant. If you liked Cold Mountain or True Grit, you would enjoy this book.
  • Lianne
    January 1, 1970
    Simon is a young fiddler trying not to get conscripted into the Civil War in Texas. The war is actually over, but apparently not in Texas. Anyway, he is brought into the Confederate Army for the last battle in Texas. Then the story progresses to how he and some other musicians travel around Texas playing music in various different towns and their stories. No doubt there will be a followup book to Simon's story.
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  • Laura Hill
    January 1, 1970
    Thank you to William Morrow and NetGalley for providing an advance copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. The book will be published on April 14th, 2020.The best kind of historical fiction a deep, richly painted, description of life in East Texas at the end of the Civil War. Its an everyday adventure story not about mythical heroes but about people trying to reclaim their lives in the chaotic aftermath of a devastating war.Simon Boudlin the titular fiddler has simple goals after Thank you to William Morrow and NetGalley for providing an advance copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. The book will be published on April 14th, 2020.The best kind of historical fiction — a deep, richly painted, description of life in East Texas at the end of the Civil War. It’s an everyday adventure story — not about mythical heroes but about people trying to reclaim their lives in the chaotic aftermath of a devastating war.Simon Boudlin — the titular fiddler — has simple goals after the war: find a piece of land, marry a woman with similar desires, and make a living with his music. But life after the Civil War is anything but simple. The novel is gritty with detail painting the turmoil of that time with a full sensory experience. While some semblance of government is trying to establish itself and put the country back together again, displaced and ruined people are scrambling to survive and make new lives. From my modern perspective life then was impossibly hard — but in this book it isn’t described in an emotional, complaining way. It just is the way it is. This is the story of people getting on with it — making their way by whatever means necessary, while still not losing their way morally.Included are beautiful descriptions of music at the time: Simon’s lusting for new sheet music that he can’t afford, the way music draws yearning and memory from the new mash of people from disparate backgrounds, and the business side — how to get gigs, what needs to be played, and how to handle the drunks and disorderlies who insist on disrupting. If you liked The News of the World, you’ll be just as captivated by Simon the Fiddler (in which, Captain Kidd makes a surprise, cameo appearance!)Beautiful writing that gets to essences. Some quotes:“His worrying kept him awake. The country was in chaos, there were no rules, law was a matter of speculation, nobody knew how to buy land or put savings in a bank since there were so few banks, how to get a loan, register a title to land, or legalize a marriage, everybody was dubious about the new federal paper money, there was little mail service, and nobody seemed to know where the roads led.”“So he lived in the bright strains of mountain music and the reflective, running pool of the Irish light airs that brought peace to his mind and to his audiences; peace soon forgotten, always returned to.”“Every song had a secret inside. When he was away from shouting drunks and bartenders and sergeants and armies, he could think his way into the secret, note by note.”“He knew that he did not play music so much as walk into it, as if into a palace of great riches, with rooms opening into other rooms, which opened into still other rooms, and in these rooms were courtyards and fountains with passageways to yet more mysterious spaces of melody, peculiar intervals, unheard notes.”“His first problem was to find a girl who would fall in love with him despite his diminutive stature and his present homelessness.”“People always tired him, always had, always would.”“He was ragged, a man of a defeated army and at the dinner he had played his heart out in a borrowed shirt. In short, very like the Irish.”“So it’s dog eat dog and Devil take the hindmost. So it has been in human memory, wild places where the only law is the strength of your good right arm.” He lifted his arm and made a bony fist. “That’s how it is in all human memory. ‘Vastness and Age! and Memories of Eld!’ ““You expect the government and the diplomatic corps to proceed at some foolish breakneck pace! There are substatutes to argy over and rewrite! And meantime the politicians must be paid their stipends and their travel expenses. Become wise, young man, and cynical, and life will be far more understandable.”
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  • Dana
    January 1, 1970
    Simon the Fiddler follows Simon Boudlin and his musician friends as they make their way through war-torn Texas following the American Civil War. At times beautiful and haunting, the plot of this uneven historical novel has the unfortunate tendency to meander to and fro without direction, very much like the protagonist himself. It's darker and more melancholy than News of the World (Captain Kidd makes a cameo appearance) and lacks the focused plot and memorable characters that made that novel a Simon the Fiddler follows Simon Boudlin and his musician friends as they make their way through war-torn Texas following the American Civil War. At times beautiful and haunting, the plot of this uneven historical novel has the unfortunate tendency to meander to and fro without direction, very much like the protagonist himself. It's darker and more melancholy than News of the World (Captain Kidd makes a cameo appearance) and lacks the focused plot and memorable characters that made that novel a success. Simon is a complex and intriguing character but he isn't enough to carry the floundering plot alone. Although the pace picks up in the later half, a hasty ending brings everything to an abrupt halt. The writing was beautiful, but the story itself lacked cohesion. Thank you to Netgalley and HarperCollins Publishers for an advanced copy in exchange for an unbiased review.
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  • Kate
    January 1, 1970
    Jiles writes with insistent evocative grace, bringing to life Texas in the immediate aftermath of the Civil War. Simon Boudlin, seen in News of the World, is the hero of this story. He yearns for music, a wife, and land. This novel traces his journey from unwilling Confederate conscriptee toward those goals.
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  • Keith
    January 1, 1970
    It is late 1864 and the Civil War is beginning to wind down. Simon Boudlin, a 23-year old itinerant musician, has done his best to avoid the conflict by pretending to be a much younger man. He eventually is conscripted into the Confederate army and survives one of the last battles of the war in the Rio Grande valley of Texas. He meets Doris Dillon, a beautiful Irish woman who left home to become an indentured servant to the family of a Union officer, and quickly falls in love with her. However, It is late 1864 and the Civil War is beginning to wind down. Simon Boudlin, a 23-year old itinerant musician, has done his best to avoid the conflict by pretending to be a much younger man. He eventually is conscripted into the Confederate army and survives one of the last battles of the war in the Rio Grande valley of Texas. He meets Doris Dillon, a beautiful Irish woman who left home to become an indentured servant to the family of a Union officer, and quickly falls in love with her. However, Doris’ service contract forbids personal relationships and so Simon sets off on a two-year journey to seek his fortune playing in bars and private gatherings as a fiddler in a pickup band. His adventures lead him from the Mexican border to Galveston, Houston, and southern Texas before finally ending up in San Antonio. There, he hopes to reunite with Doris, who has faced constant hardships and dangers of her own, and start a life together.In Simon the Fiddler, author Paulette Jiles weaves Simon and Doris’ story in a tale that is as rich with atmosphere as it is with character development. As in her wonderful novel News of the World, Jiles has a very special feel for the geography of Texas and she does a masterful job of describing all aspects of both the towns and natural surroundings that Simon moves through on his travels around the state. In fact, it is in these descriptions of the sights, the sounds, and the places where the book really shines. Having been born and raised in Kentucky, Simon is seeing this part of the world for the first time and the author makes us feel as if we are too. She captures beautifully the myriad nuances of this often desolate and lonely landscape, as well as the almost claustrophobic feeling that besets the characters when they find themselves restricted to a well-populated city.What I found to be less successful, though, was the story itself. Although the author tries to repeat the “journey around post-Civil War Texas” frame of News of the World—Captain Jefferson Kidd, the main character from that earlier effort, even makes a cameo appearance—this novel is simply not as engaging. I never really came to care much for Simon, who frequently acted impulsively in ways that seemed unjustified by his sad upbringing, to find his story to be that interesting. I was willing to be more charmed by Doris than I was, but unfortunately we learn relatively little of her life and backstory for all the time we spend with Simon. The same can be said for some of the supporting characters in the novel, notably Damon and Doroteo, two of Simon’s bandmates. Consequently, while well-crafted and well-written, Simon the Fiddler falls a little short of the high mark the author established with her previous work.
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  • Allison
    January 1, 1970
    I received an advance readers edition of this book from Goodreads and William Morrow/Harper Collins Publishers in exchange for an honest review. I have read several of the authors books and have always been impressed with her way with words, her character development and memorable descriptions of places and times long since passed. Simon the Fiddler is no exception. I found it the perfect book to read during our mandatory stay-at-home restrictions caused by the COVID-19 outbreak. Watching the I received an advance reader’s edition of this book from Goodreads and William Morrow/Harper Collins Publishers in exchange for an honest review. I have read several of the author’s books and have always been impressed with her way with words, her character development and memorable descriptions of places and times long since passed. Simon the Fiddler is no exception. I found it the perfect book to read during our mandatory stay-at-home restrictions caused by the COVID-19 outbreak. Watching the news every day, learning of so many people dying, and the almost insurmountable difficulties faced by health care workers and first responders has left me feeling depressed and with a sense of helplessness. Jiles’s story transported me to a totally different time and place, taking my mind off my worries and the stress of what is going on in our world today. Simon the Fiddler takes place in Texas, just as the Civil War is ending. Simon Boudlin and several other members of a scratch band play for Union and Confederate officers and their families after their last battle at Los Palmitos on the Rio Grande. It is there that Simon first sets his eyes on Doris Dillon, the Irish governess who is indentured to a Union colonel, and the women who will haunt his dreams and drive his plans over the next two years. Simon and his bandmates sneak away from the Confederate Army without discharge papers and make their way to Galveston to play their music in any establishment that will have them so that they can earn money to move on to better futures elsewhere. Galveston at that time was an unruly and unsettled place with people not knowing who was overseeing justice. It was oppressively hot and humid, and people were living in filthy war torn and weather ravaged conditions. They were continually plagued by bad weather, mosquitos and yellow fever along with an occasional alligator. Jiles’s characters are heartbreakingly real, fallible, heroic, wise and witty and bring with them a continuous score of music to be heard in the reader’s ear. Her descriptions of old Texas are wonderfully vivid from the battlefield of Los Palmitos and the wharves of Galveston to bustling Houston, the ruins of the Alamo and the missions of San Antonio. I finished this book hearing the strains of fiddle music and hoping to see the Red River Valley.
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  • ˗ˏˋ maddie ˊˎ˗
    January 1, 1970
    full disclosure: i received an arc from a goodreads giveaway.i had a lot of issues with this book but my biggest was that it didn't really start until about page 300. the rest was filled in like backstory, like an excited friend telling you about what just happened in her favorite show, but to understand it, you need some context, so: 'okay, simon was conscripted in the war pretty much after all the fighting was done, he met this girl, spoke to her for one second, got obsessed, and she wasn't full disclosure: i received an arc from a goodreads giveaway.i had a lot of issues with this book but my biggest was that it didn't really start until about page 300. the rest was filled in like backstory, like an excited friend telling you about what just happened in her favorite show, but to understand it, you need some context, so: 'okay, simon was conscripted in the war pretty much after all the fighting was done, he met this girl, spoke to her for one second, got obsessed, and she wasn't super safe in the house she was working in so he got all turned on by the idea of saving her, he took up with this band but they didn't really matter and even though they're in about 200 pages of the book... you never really get to know them and they peace out without even a goodbye. you never get to know too much about simon either because the whole thing is like a surface-skim, even the state of the world post-war isn't delved into even though that would be super interesting, also..... the word slavery or anything to do with slavery is CONSPICUOUSLY absent from a book about the civil war and directly after it, okay, so it's really about simon playing fiddle and making money so he can buy this land so he can marry this girl he spoke to for a hot second, though they DO eventually start exchanging letters so simon gets more of a hero hard-on for her, and so he plays and gets money and plays and gets money and that's like... the story of it, i guess? oh, and he reads her letters too, i guess, annnnd, hm, okay, i guess that's it, 'cause it's like not even put into much context of the 1860s and the war and all so, yeah, that really is it.' that is exactly how much depth is put into the story, a quick drive-by and then moving on but not to get to anything, at least not until page 300 when this should-have-been a short story began.also, servant ≠ slave. servant ≠ freed slave. please, please, PLEASE make that change before you release the finished book because it is not a good look. the fact that slavery is not mentioned at all is not a good look all on its own, but that is even worse.
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