From the author of National Book Award finalist News of the World (2016), Simon Boudlin finds himself conscripted into the Confederate Army in March 1865 and soon thereafter enamored by an indentured girl from Ireland he meets during his service. After the war Simon travels around Texas, earning a reputation as a talented fiddler—but he cannot forget the fair Irish maiden whom he vows to meet again.
Fans of Paulette Jiles’s News of the World will be delighted — and perhaps a little disappointed — by the author’s seventh book. With her previous novel, Jiles delivered a near-perfect historical novel of compressed lyricism and masterly storytelling about the itinerant adventures of the septuagenarian widower Capt. Jefferson Kyle Kidd ... It’s a breathtaking book ... With Simon the Fiddler, Jiles taps a secondary character, the redheaded Simon Boudlin from News of the World, and opens up the narrative folds of his personal saga, jumping back a few years in time.... As with her other novels, Jiles is in command of this historical milieu, evoking her scenes and characters with precision and detail ... During its finer moments, Jiles’s new book calls to mind one of my favorite books by Willa Cather, The Song of the Lark, about an opera singer who is transformed by her talent, ambition and determination. Like Cather, Jiles deftly animates landscapes — both internal and external — as well as those hard-to-portray moments when making music and performing for others leads to true self-contentment. 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.
... endearing ... sweeter than Jiles’s previous work but no less attentive to the texture of the American Southwest ... if you understand how a romantic quest works, you know the conclusion is already locked and loaded. And if the plot of Simon the Fiddler unfolds at a fairly leisurely trot, well, at least it’s never anything less than thoroughly charming. And when the final battle royal arrives in San Antonio, it’s just the rousing ballad we want to hear.
Imbued with the dust, grit, and grime of Galveston at the close of the Civil War, Simon the Fiddler immerses readers in the challenges of Reconstruction. Jiles...brings her singular voice to the young couple’s travails, her written word as lyrical and musical as Simon’s bow raking over his strings. Loyal Jiles readers and fans of Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See (2014), and Elizabeth Strout’s Olive Kitteridge (2008) will adore the author’s latest masterpiece.