Sunday, May 3, 2020

Simon the Fiddler

Simon the Fiddler by Paulette Jiles
HarperCollins: 4/14/20
advanced reading copy; 352 pages

Simon the Fiddler by Paulette Jiles is a very highly recommended historical fiction novel set in Texas at the end of the Civil War.

In March 1865, Simon Boudlin is a twenty-three-year-old itinerant fiddle player who, due to his youthful appearance, avoided conscription into the confederate army until almost the end of the war. After the war ends when he plays for a group of officers and their families he notices the lovely Doris Mary Dillon. Doris is an indentured girl from Ireland who has committed to three years as a governess to the daughter of Colonel Webb of the Union Army. While Simon travels around Texas with his band mates and fellow veterans making money playing music, he has plans to buy some land in Texas and to marry Doris once her service comes to an end.

Simon the Fiddler is a beautifully written, richly detailed, atmospheric story that perfectly captures the time, place and setting as Simon and his mates travel and play across Texas. Jiles vividly describes their travels and experiences across the Texas landscape during this turbulent period in time. Along with Texas, music plays an even more vital role in this novel. In order to play the music that he loves and is committed to, he has to carve a way to do so during a rugged and wild time. For those who love music, the songs mentioned in the novel will be a treasure to encounter along the way and should provide you with an internal playlist as you read.

The characters are wonderfully well-developed and realistically portrayed. Simon certainly knows his faults and will tell you what they are even before we see them displayed. But his drive and determination along with his talent and love for music is also clearly shown. Doris is also a strong young woman enduring a difficult situation. The two manage to correspond through a clever deception and you will be rooting for their eventual reunion as you follow Simon's travels and Doris's struggles.

There is some exciting action and drama toward the end of the novel and a satisfying conclusion. This would be a great choice for book clubs, especially those who enjoy discussing historical fiction. Including songs mentioned in the book would be a fun bonus to add for members.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of HarperCollins.

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