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“The reader is treated to a kind of alchemy on the page when character, setting and song converge at all the right notes, generating an authentic humanity that is worth remembering and celebrating.” —  New York Times 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 Wa “The reader is treated to a kind of alchemy on the page when character, setting and song converge at all the right notes, generating an authentic humanity that is worth remembering and celebrating.” —  New York Times 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. "Jiles’ sparse but lyrical writing is a joy to read. . . . Lose yourself in this entertaining tale.” —  Associated Press


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“The reader is treated to a kind of alchemy on the page when character, setting and song converge at all the right notes, generating an authentic humanity that is worth remembering and celebrating.” —  New York Times 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 Wa “The reader is treated to a kind of alchemy on the page when character, setting and song converge at all the right notes, generating an authentic humanity that is worth remembering and celebrating.” —  New York Times 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. "Jiles’ sparse but lyrical writing is a joy to read. . . . Lose yourself in this entertaining tale.” —  Associated Press

30 review for Simon the Fiddler

  1. 4 out of 5

    Angela M

    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 T 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.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Will Byrnes

    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 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 Shakespeare Review posted – October 25, 2019 Publication date – April 14, 2020 =============================EXTRA STUFF The author’s personal website This 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 Salamon My review of Giles’ incredible News of the World Partial 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

  3. 5 out of 5

    Beata

    Review to follow, all I can say now is that I loved it .... A big thank-you to Paulette Jiles, William Morrow & Edelweiss ! Review to follow, all I can say now is that I loved it .... A big thank-you to Paulette Jiles, William Morrow & Edelweiss !

  4. 5 out of 5

    Dorie - Cats&Books :)

    **THIS BOOK IS NOW AVAILABLE*** 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 be **THIS BOOK IS NOW AVAILABLE*** 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.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Diane S ☔

    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.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Debra

    Atmospheric - yes Beautifully Written - Yes Wonderfully researched - yes Tale of struggles - yes Spot on Descriptions - yes Attention to detail – yes Transports the reader to another time - yes And yet, I felt this book went on and on and on - especially in the middle. I enjoyed News of the World and this was not as enjoyable as that book for me. Even with the research, the beautiful writing, and her attention to the harsh, dirty, gritty time that her characters lived in, I never felt a connection to t Atmospheric - yes Beautifully Written - Yes Wonderfully researched - yes Tale of struggles - yes Spot on Descriptions - yes Attention to detail – yes Transports the reader to another time - yes And yet, I felt this book went on and on and on - especially in the middle. I enjoyed News of the World and this was not as enjoyable as that book for me. Even with the research, the beautiful writing, and her attention to the harsh, dirty, gritty time that her characters lived in, I never felt a connection to the characters in this book. As Simon tried to free Doris, my attention was waning. Again, beautifully written and researched. This book describes the struggles and harshness of life. It also describes a man's love of music, his struggle for survival, his use of his wits, a woman's strength, and a journey not only to reach a destination but of the human spirit. Twenty-three-year-old Simon can pass for a fifteen-year-old yet finds himself conscripted into the Confederate army where his fiddle playing gets him a position with the band. On the eve of the Confederate surrender, Simon and some of his band mates are playing for the officers and their families when Simon notices Doris Mary Aherne, an indentured servant sitting with the Union Colonel's daughter. They go their separate ways, but Simon cannot get Doris out of his head and vows he will find her. Music and Doris are Simon's two loves. He is a musician and his love of music is deep and as he sets out to play to survive, he also sets about keeping in touch with Doris through correspondence. Many are enjoying this more than I did. I encourage you to read their reviews as well I guess I am not the slow burn kind of gal. The middle really dragged on for me. It is strange to really appreciate a book for certain aspects and at the same time be continuously hoping and wishing this book would pick up the pace. This will not stop me from reading Jiles in the future. She is a gifted author but this one missed the mark for me. I still enjoyed it but would have liked a faster moving story line. Thank you to HarperCollins Publishers and NetGalley who provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All the thoughts and opinions are my own.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Elyse Walters

    Shouting, fighting, swearing, drinking, drunks, smoking, bells of churches, armed men, slipping discipline, gambling, and music.... shine the light over the characters. Some of the dialogue made me laugh... but the characters ‘needed’ distractions ( music, alcohol, cigarettes, and music), shinning over them....because they, themselves were a little dull. The most outstanding qualities about the characters were their ages, height, weight, and birthplace. Not enough to build a story with in my opini Shouting, fighting, swearing, drinking, drunks, smoking, bells of churches, armed men, slipping discipline, gambling, and music.... shine the light over the characters. Some of the dialogue made me laugh... but the characters ‘needed’ distractions ( music, alcohol, cigarettes, and music), shinning over them....because they, themselves were a little dull. The most outstanding qualities about the characters were their ages, height, weight, and birthplace. Not enough to build a story with in my opinion. Even the love-interest challenge was sluggishly developed. Paulette Jiles has a way with words that are impressive - with unique language styling - but....this entire book felt created from the slim-story-picking-pile. Pause moments never gets much better than this: “Is that a fiddler case, one of the Confederate officers asked Simon?” “No, it’s a dead baby”. I did believe Simon when he said that solitude was as important to him as music, food, and water was. I wanted to know more about why... and what ‘being alone’ did for him. Obviously- being with people didn’t enliven him. Simon’s first problem was to find a woman to fall in love with him…regardless of his short stature, and looking like a ragged homeless guy. He wasn’t a celibate...but he was regarded as a poor choice for a women’s choice. I understand... Simon wouldn’t be a desirable choice for me either. Looking for a book that might help put you to sleep? “Simon the Fiddler”just might do the trick. 2.5 stars

  8. 4 out of 5

    Esil

    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 caugh 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.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Joy D

    Protagonist Simon Boudlin is serving as a regimental musician in the Confederate Army. His unit surrenders to Union forces after one of the last skirmishes of the American Civil War. He briefly meets his love interest, Miss Dillon, an immigrant from Ireland, at a musical performance. She is an indentured governess to a Union colonel and his family. To make a living, Simon relies on his fiddle. He journeys around Texas with a group of fellow musicians. His goal is to save money, buy land, and fin Protagonist Simon Boudlin is serving as a regimental musician in the Confederate Army. His unit surrenders to Union forces after one of the last skirmishes of the American Civil War. He briefly meets his love interest, Miss Dillon, an immigrant from Ireland, at a musical performance. She is an indentured governess to a Union colonel and his family. To make a living, Simon relies on his fiddle. He journeys around Texas with a group of fellow musicians. His goal is to save money, buy land, and find Miss Dillon at the colonel’s home in San Antonio. Another musician writes to Miss Dillon on Simon’s behalf, claiming common Irish ancestry. This allows Simon to keep in touch with her without any impropriety. While traveling, Simon and his fellow itinerant musicians experience a variety of capers. I was initially attracted to this book due to its depiction of the music of the 1860’s. The author mentions a variety of songs, instruments, and types of performances that would be typical of the time. It is well-written, but the characters’ motivations are unclear, and it follows a rather predictable path. Sometimes a book suffers by the sequence in which it is read, as is the case here. I had previously read and loved this author’s News of the World. There are a few common characters between the two books, and it is set in the same period and region. This book is a prequel of sorts. While I enjoyed Simon the Fiddler, it is not in the same league as News of the World.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Faith

    Simon Boudlin is a fiddler by trade. He looks younger than his 23 years and has used that fact to avoid having to fight in the Civil War. Finally near the end of the war in 1865 his luck runs out and he is conscripted into the Confederate army in Texas. Simon glimpses a young Irish immigrant, Doris Dillon, and it’s instalove. After a while Simon, without being formally discharged, and 3 companions decide to travel together as a band. The band goes from place to place. Doris also goes from place Simon Boudlin is a fiddler by trade. He looks younger than his 23 years and has used that fact to avoid having to fight in the Civil War. Finally near the end of the war in 1865 his luck runs out and he is conscripted into the Confederate army in Texas. Simon glimpses a young Irish immigrant, Doris Dillon, and it’s instalove. After a while Simon, without being formally discharged, and 3 companions decide to travel together as a band. The band goes from place to place. Doris also goes from place to place with the family of the Union officer to whom she is indentured. They sometimes write letters to each other. Then they meet again. That is absolutely all that happens in this book. No conflict, tension, quest, suspense, action, humor or character development. It’s hard to know what to say about a book that is neither plot driven nor character driven. I described all there is to the plot. The characters are so nondescript that when band members eventually leave the band they go with no more notice than you’d pay to a sneeze. The writing is pleasant enough and, unlike in the author’s other books that I have read, the author actually uses quotation marks. So that’s a big plus. I loved “News of the World”, but this book has none of the charm of the earlier book. I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Bkwmlee

    3.5 stars To say that I struggled with rating this book is an understatement. On the one hand, I absolutely loved the writing! Paulette Jiles is a masterful writer who has the ability to transport the reader to a completely different time and place — in this case, Texas in 1865, right after the Civil War — through her atmospheric prose. With the realistic descriptions of the desolate landscape that Simon and his ragtag band travel through, areas mostly devastated by war but yet still contained gl 3.5 stars To say that I struggled with rating this book is an understatement. On the one hand, I absolutely loved the writing! Paulette Jiles is a masterful writer who has the ability to transport the reader to a completely different time and place — in this case, Texas in 1865, right after the Civil War — through her atmospheric prose. With the realistic descriptions of the desolate landscape that Simon and his ragtag band travel through, areas mostly devastated by war but yet still contained glimpses of hope for the future, I truly felt like I was inhabiting their world and experiencing the events as they did — which of course is what great historical fiction does. Despite how much I liked the writing though, I found it difficult to get into the story for some reason. Perhaps because the story was really really slow-moving, with not much plot to speak of for majority of the book, plus I got tired of Simon’s adventures after a while. I was actually more interested in each of the characters’ background stories, which sounded much more fascinating, but unfortunately, only tidbits of their stories were shared here and there — instead, most of the narrative was too focused on Simon’s various encounters as he and his friends traveled around trying to find work. It wasn’t until the last third or so of the book that the story picked up enough to keep my interest. Aside from the story, I also didn’t connect much with the characters, whether main ones or supporting. I liked Simon as a character and Doris too, but I never really felt invested in their relationship. It seemed kind of farcical to me the way their relationship progressed, starting with Simon falling in love with Doris (a complete stranger to him at the time) almost instantaneously, then doing everything in his power to make himself worthy enough to pursue her — later when they finally meet, their interaction the entire time felt predictable, clumsy, and largely emotionless. I basically wasn’t convinced of their relationship, which made those sections where Simon and Doris profess their affinity for each other a bit awkward to read. My overall sentiment is that I wanted very much to love this book, but ended up merely “liking” it instead. As I mentioned earlier, the setting was beautifully rendered and the writing was absolutely exquisite, but the story and the characters didn’t quite work for me. With that said, I seem to be in the minority with this one so I would say please don’t let my review deter you if you were already planning on reading it – if anything, the writing itself makes this a worthwhile read even if the story isn’t great. Personally, even though, I wasn’t too keen on her newest novel, I am still quite excited to explore Paulette Jiles’s backlist of works, especially her acclaimed News of the World , which has been on my TBR for quite some time. Received ARC from William Morrow (HarperCollins) via NetGalley.

  12. 5 out of 5

    DeAnn

    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 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

  13. 5 out of 5

    Ron Charles

    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 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...

  14. 5 out of 5

    DJ Sakata

    My Rating: 3.5 Favorite Quotes: I am faithful to my friends and you can go to hell and shovel ashes. She must take great care. Trust in God, her mother said, but never dance in a small boat. Damon watched amazed as the man touched his hat and stood aside, but then this was the way of it when somebody carried a musical instrument, who knows why but they treat you like a woman carrying a baby. That plus a threatening glare would clear the way. Soldiers and others watched them pass with interested looks My Rating: 3.5 Favorite Quotes: I am faithful to my friends and you can go to hell and shovel ashes. She must take great care. Trust in God, her mother said, but never dance in a small boat. Damon watched amazed as the man touched his hat and stood aside, but then this was the way of it when somebody carried a musical instrument, who knows why but they treat you like a woman carrying a baby. That plus a threatening glare would clear the way. Soldiers and others watched them pass with interested looks because they carried instruments and there is not a human being on earth who does not have a favorite song, lacking only somebody to play it. 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. Pressley was a fat, pale man with slow movements and protruding eyes. He had a very deep voice that seemed to issue from him as if it had first been cast into him from somewhere else. My Review: I’m still contemplating and ruminating over the unusual style and approach of this book. It took me twice as long to finish as it normally would for a book of the same length. The writing style was oddly captivating, yet arduous to get through as it was laden with a staggering amount of well-researched language and items of the time, as well as intricate details of the tiniest of minutia, much of which was unfamiliar and surprisingly interesting but at other times quite tedious and laborious to wade through, and significantly slowed the storylines which progressed in accelerated bursts and slow easy starts. Yet I remained oddly intrigued and curious as to their fate throughout this slowly unfolding story. The emotional tone was taut with tension and fraught with angst, frustration, contained rage, imminent peril, fear, thirst and hunger, yearning, intense poverty, lack of social or legal recourse, and unrelenting exhaustion. Although, slivers of clever humor sparkled among the gloom and doom of the aftermath of war and the mistreatment and abuse of power exercised over the citizens and defeated soldiers by the arrogant victors. I greatly enjoyed the pearls of wisdom and uncanny literary quotes and observations from the secondary character of Damon. What a dreadful period in history to have lived through. I am far too spoiled by my creature comforts. I require indoor plumbing, electrical current, ready transportation, and unrestricted access to the all-important major food groups - like grapes and chocolate.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Kathleen

    I adored Jiles’ News of the World and was looking forward to this atmospheric novel taking place in Texas at the conclusion of the Civil War. It does not live up to the brilliance of News, but it is a heartwarming story nevertheless. The Kentucky orphan Simon has avoided conscription for most of the war, but in March of 1865 he is caught and conscripted into the Confederate Army along with his prized Markneukirche fiddle. The war ends while his regiment is in Texas. There he puts together a ‘scra I adored Jiles’ News of the World and was looking forward to this atmospheric novel taking place in Texas at the conclusion of the Civil War. It does not live up to the brilliance of News, but it is a heartwarming story nevertheless. The Kentucky orphan Simon has avoided conscription for most of the war, but in March of 1865 he is caught and conscripted into the Confederate Army along with his prized Markneukirche fiddle. The war ends while his regiment is in Texas. There he puts together a ‘scratch band’ with guitarist Doroteo Navarro, a whistle-player Damon Lessing and a bodhran/bones player, Patrick O’Hehir. The group travels throughout Texas, and Simon falls in love with an Irish lass while playing at one of their venues. Needless to say, their courtship faces a number of obstacles. But, Simon is a determined guy. Enjoy.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth of Silver's Reviews

    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 Ri 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. 3/5 This book was given to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Moonkiszt

    Music is key in this story, and that was where I was most engaged. Simon just wanted to be in a band! That makes him relevant to every person who ever just wanted to be in a band! I remember those days. . . Added to that overriding desire, Simon's life is complicated by the Civil War that is moments away from officially ending, and then taking years to actually end. So many people on both sides didn't get the word that fighting was done, or didn't want to get the work that fighting should be don Music is key in this story, and that was where I was most engaged. Simon just wanted to be in a band! That makes him relevant to every person who ever just wanted to be in a band! I remember those days. . . Added to that overriding desire, Simon's life is complicated by the Civil War that is moments away from officially ending, and then taking years to actually end. So many people on both sides didn't get the word that fighting was done, or didn't want to get the work that fighting should be done. . .and meanwhile both sides of the war was populated with people who like to dance, sing and have a band in the house! That puts Simon in some interesting positions. . .he's not just Union or Confederate. In fact he's neither - he's a fiddler. In a band. That wants to play for you. And one more complication: Doris, the beauty from Ireland for who he has decided is worthy of pursuit. However, she is indentured and has lots of time to serve. The setting is the south, particularly Texas. I had ancestors playing in these areas during those years, so my interest was boosted even more. 4 stars, Texas Fiddlin' Stars, of course.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Jenny Baker

    3.5 stars I didn’t realize until about a week ago that Paulette Jiles had a new book out. I loved News of the World, so I immediately jumped onto my library’s Overdrive website and placed a hold on the audiobook. I love reading books that take place in the 19th century and I enjoy Paulette Jiles’s writing style. Also, Grover Gardner does a fantastic job narrating the audiobook as he always does. Even though the book has elements that I love, I just didn’t love this one as much as News of the Worl 3.5 stars I didn’t realize until about a week ago that Paulette Jiles had a new book out. I loved News of the World, so I immediately jumped onto my library’s Overdrive website and placed a hold on the audiobook. I love reading books that take place in the 19th century and I enjoy Paulette Jiles’s writing style. Also, Grover Gardner does a fantastic job narrating the audiobook as he always does. Even though the book has elements that I love, I just didn’t love this one as much as News of the World. I can’t really put my finger on why it didn’t resonate as much. I still highly recommend this book, so give it a try if you're thinking about reading it!

  19. 5 out of 5

    Darla

    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.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Laura • lauralovestoread

    I read a lot of historical fiction, so I was very excited at the prospect of this storyline set in the 1800s at the turn of the Civil War. I wanted to love this book, and really tried, but in the end this just wasn’t for me. The story just never really picked up for me and I felt like I was trudging through without getting the details of a character study I usually need with historical fiction. *thank you William Morrow for the gifted copy. All opinions are my own.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Shawn Mooney (Shawn The Book Maniac)

    After loving Jiles’ News of the World, it was more than a little disappointing that I couldn’t get even a fifth of the way into this one before setting it aside. While the historical backdrop was fascinating and well described – a hapless fiddler gets drafted into the Confederate army in the dying days of the Civil War - said titular Simon was so bland a character I couldn’t keep my eyes open. While he fiddled, I twiddled my thumbs waiting for some glimmer of an actual personality to emerge. Fid After loving Jiles’ News of the World, it was more than a little disappointing that I couldn’t get even a fifth of the way into this one before setting it aside. While the historical backdrop was fascinating and well described – a hapless fiddler gets drafted into the Confederate army in the dying days of the Civil War - said titular Simon was so bland a character I couldn’t keep my eyes open. While he fiddled, I twiddled my thumbs waiting for some glimmer of an actual personality to emerge. Fiddle-de-dee!

  22. 5 out of 5

    Mark

    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 still opened to other rooms, and in these rooms were courtyards and fountains with passageways to yet more mysterious spaces of melody, peculiar intervals, unheard notes.” “Then San Antonio was ahead of them, tucked into the knees of the hills, a layer of woodsmoke sliding overhead in misty layers. The sound of the bells of San Fernando Cathedral rang out, rai 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 still opened to other rooms, and in these rooms were courtyards and fountains with passageways to yet more mysterious spaces of melody, peculiar intervals, unheard notes.” “Then San Antonio was ahead of them, tucked into the knees of the hills, a layer of woodsmoke sliding overhead in misty layers. The sound of the bells of San Fernando Cathedral rang out, rain crows sailing through the air.” It is early spring of 1965 and the Civil War is mercifully grinding to a halt. Simon Boudlin, a twenty-three year old fiddler player, has been rambling around Texas, playing gigs where he can. After getting in trouble, during a bar fight, he is conscripted in a ragtag Confederate outfit, and ends up playing in the regiment band. During a chance encounter, he meets a pretty young Irish girl named Doris, that he falls head over heels for. The end of the war, splits these two up and the rest of this engaging novel, has the reader, follow Simon as he tries to track Doris down, through war-ravaged east and south Texas. Jiles has become such a solid and dependable writer. Her last book, News of the World was a complete joy and her latest is another winner. She does her research too and the detail here feels so rich and complete. For those of you who fondly remember Captain Kidd, from her earlier work, he makes a brief appearance here too and it definitely made me smile.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Stephanie Crowe

    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 ones 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!

  24. 5 out of 5

    Phyllis

    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?

  25. 5 out of 5

    Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance

    The war is over but the news hasn't arrived in Texas yet, and Simon's group of soldiers are still fighting. Simon is a fiddler, and he has dreams for his life, big dreams, dreams that involve a wife, owning land, and fiddling. Simon the Fiddler is a sort of True Grit plus Lonesome Dove with strong characters and a wonderful post-Civil War setting.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Kathy

    This is a tall tale, appropriate for a Texan. It features a fiddler from Kentucky and all of his struggles in pursuing a dream of marrying a young Irish governess he has barely had the chance to exchange words with, observed at one of the camps of soldiers post Civil War. Simon is gifted musically and has the charisma to lead others in forming a musical group that will allow him to make a living in the hardest of times. Simon's musical group and its travels through the worst of weather and lands This is a tall tale, appropriate for a Texan. It features a fiddler from Kentucky and all of his struggles in pursuing a dream of marrying a young Irish governess he has barely had the chance to exchange words with, observed at one of the camps of soldiers post Civil War. Simon is gifted musically and has the charisma to lead others in forming a musical group that will allow him to make a living in the hardest of times. Simon's musical group and its travels through the worst of weather and landscape by foot most of the time makes for interesting reading. His faith that he will once again meet up with the Irish lass leads him to make a down payment on 400 acres as he and his group keep moving from settlement to settlement looking for paid music gigs to keep going as they head for San Antonio. They won't all make it. Will he manage to rescue the damsel and make her his own? It is a hard scrabble journey. Library Loan

  27. 5 out of 5

    Jeanette

    It's closer to a 3.5 star read than a 3 star. But as authentic as it feels and reads, I still couldn't round it up. Not for any other reason, perhaps, in that I knew it was just going to be (and end too) exactly as it did. An adventurous tale, but not one with any historic event "nailed"- or characterizations "surprises" either. Which perhaps though, is a "good" thing for the peaceful feel of this read after quite the opposite. But this might have been so much better with some less stoic charact It's closer to a 3.5 star read than a 3 star. But as authentic as it feels and reads, I still couldn't round it up. Not for any other reason, perhaps, in that I knew it was just going to be (and end too) exactly as it did. An adventurous tale, but not one with any historic event "nailed"- or characterizations "surprises" either. Which perhaps though, is a "good" thing for the peaceful feel of this read after quite the opposite. But this might have been so much better with some less stoic characters. All were physically visual excellent in their portrayals but also a mite dull. Loved the alligator scene when they became more "lit"- for instance. That was absolutely 4 star. It's smooth and I love the prose flow. She is an excellent writer and I would read any of hers, for sure. Here Simon is layered to deep "knowing" and his Doris and many of the other characters are sharp and clear, as well. But Texas locales, the times just post Civil War with all those uncertainties- that's what is the best and 4.5 stars in this book. And the fiddle. And the foursome "perform" gigs that turn into a threesome that dwindles to a duo. It did encompass the time and the "feel" of turmoil still churning. And how that so reflected in the needs and in the music. Best of all it was written chronologically and with narrator clarity of actual, true, aspiration seeking. Ordinary people in shifting journeys to seek. Accompanied by the fiddle music and its maker.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Mayda

    By appearing younger than his actual age, Simon hopes to avoid conscription into the Confederate Army. His luck runs out towards the end of war, but his talent as a fiddler lands him in a relatively safe position in that regiment’s band. A chance performance to play for officers from both sides has him glimpsing the young and pretty governess of a northern officer, and he plays a song she requests. She goes off with the officer and his family, and Simon has fallen compulsively and completely in By appearing younger than his actual age, Simon hopes to avoid conscription into the Confederate Army. His luck runs out towards the end of war, but his talent as a fiddler lands him in a relatively safe position in that regiment’s band. A chance performance to play for officers from both sides has him glimpsing the young and pretty governess of a northern officer, and he plays a song she requests. She goes off with the officer and his family, and Simon has fallen compulsively and completely in love. His quest to find her, with the ultimate goal of marriage, consumes him. This well-written novel paints a very descriptive picture of that time period, from the decimation of the land and its people, to the extreme poverty and hard-scrabble living just to get food and shelter to the utter horror of yellow fever. The language the author uses flows like water in a quiet stream, it is so smooth. The characters are complex and well-defined, and the plot is compelling in its simplicity. The author does an excellent job of making each character seem so real and their plight so heart-rending, that the reader can’t help but feel empathy for Simon and his ragtag band of musicians as they search for the almost-indentured governess. This book is what historical fiction should be.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Meg - A Bookish Affair

    In "Simon the Fiddler," Simon has had the fortune to escape being conscripted into the military during the brutal Civil War due to his youthful looks and slight frame. At the tail end of the war, his luck runs thin and he is conscripted and fights in one of the final battles of the war. Luckily, he is still able to keep up his music and playing his beloved fiddle. This book covers the dying days of the war and the dawning of the aftermath through a unique perspective woven together with music. I In "Simon the Fiddler," Simon has had the fortune to escape being conscripted into the military during the brutal Civil War due to his youthful looks and slight frame. At the tail end of the war, his luck runs thin and he is conscripted and fights in one of the final battles of the war. Luckily, he is still able to keep up his music and playing his beloved fiddle. This book covers the dying days of the war and the dawning of the aftermath through a unique perspective woven together with music. It's a tale of resilience and love that covered a time period that I still have not read much about! The Civil War and the years after are such a difficult time in American history. The war and its aftereffects upended so many different things. I really liked seeing what it would have been like to live through those unprecedented times. Because Simon is a musician, he has a very unique perspective on the war and what it will mean for those around him. We also get to see how healing he believes music is and how it can effect people for the better. I also loved the romantic aspect of this book. Simon is playing a show and spots a young woman, Doris Dillon, and falls for her hard. She is indentured to a powerful officer and must follow him and his family around when all she dreams of escaping. Both Simon and Doris's lives are not their own in many ways and I loved seeing how they are able to make the best of it and to take a leap that might land them in trouble. I really loved seeing how the story unwound between them! You all know that I love historical fiction and I really love when authors explore some of the hidden corners of history. Like with her previous novel "News of the World," this is exactly what Jiles does again in "Simon the Fiddler." This book is a great pick for readers looking for a different perspective on the aftermath of the Civil War.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Peter Tillman

    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 o 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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