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Simon the Fiddler: A Novel by Paulette Jiles

Simon the Fiddler: A Novel

by Paulette Jiles

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Simon is a redheaded fiddler who gets caught up in the Civil War when it's effectively already over. Afterwards, he moves through Texas fiddling for his supper with varying degrees of success. He gets into trouble with the authorities, falls in love with an Irish governess named Doris, and dreams of having his own piece of land and putting Doris on it while he continues to travel and fiddle.

This isn't enough of a story to fill up a novel of over 350 pages. There is no particular cameraderie between Simon and his fellow musicians (mostly the opposite), the romance with Doris is unromantic, and the reader really needs to fall in love with Simon and his dream, and I didn't. Would life with Simon beat the whole governess gig for Doris? Given that their relationship comprises half the plot, this shouldn't be an open question. "News of the World" was at least twice as readable and had infinitely better characters.

The writing is accomplished and confident (I drank a quart of water reading about sailing to Galveston), and the sense of time and place is arresting, but this is not enough to make up for the novel's serious shortcomings. I received an advanced readers copy from the publisher and was encouraged to write a review. ( )
  jillrhudy | Nov 20, 2019 |
Lincoln is dead. Lee has surrendered. Soon Simon Boudlin's Texas regiment does the same, and the 23-year-old fiddler becomes a musician again, having "regained his strength and his living, tight verve, his low-spoken intensity." He sets his sights on buying some land and getting together with a beautiful Irish indentured servant he has barely more than glimpsed. Lyrical and evocative--Jiles really knows her way around this time period.

Nice moment when Simon meets up with Captain Kidd from News of the World: "I have taken up giving news readings." ( )
  beaujoe | Oct 13, 2019 |
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