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Simon the Fiddler This story is 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 heartIn March , the long and bitter War between the States is winding down Till now, twenty three year old Simon Boudlin has evaded military duty but following a barroom brawl in Victoria, Texas, Simon finds himself conscripted into the Confederate Army Luckily his talent with a fiddle gets him a comparatively easy position in a regimental bandWeeks 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 fiddler can t help but notice Doris Mary Aherne, an indentured girl from Ireland, who is governess to a Union colonel s daughterAfter the surrender, Simon and Doris go their separate ways But Simon cannot forget the fair Irish maiden, and vows that someday he will find her again 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 nonotice 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 News of the World is one of my favorite books I ve been remiss since I read it by not readingby 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 readingby 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 evendetermined 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 , 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 learnabout 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 knownabout 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 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 any 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 any 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 gettingof 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 arural 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, acomplete 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 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

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