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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 MonthlyWhen 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 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 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 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 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 I loved the author s earlier work NEWS OF THE WORLD and was hoping for a similar masterpiece, but alas, it is not to be The vivid descriptions are here, placing me right in the Texas countryside of 1865, but the characters are not as strong as the wonderful Captain Kidd The titular Simon and 3 buddies leave the Confederate Army without properly discharging, and try to carve out a life playing music in and around Texas Simon has a short fuse and doesn t like being around people, two traits that don t really mesh with being a traveling musician Simon yearns to find the right girl, buy a large plot of land, and live a quiet life playing his music He spies a young woman during an encounter with the Union Army and decides she is the one for him Illogically, his entire focus becomes finding this woman and marrying her The story becomes long and slow, with much detail of location and music Then, after such a slow buildup, the ending feels rushed and forced Thanks to Edelweiss for providing an ARC. 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 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 This is historical romance set in Texas, and the two lovebirds barely know each other One is a young fiddler and his love interest is a Scottish indentured servant If you liked Cold Mountain or True Grit, you would enjoy this book. 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 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 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 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 Quick Thinking, Audacious Fiddler Can T Help But Notice The Lovely 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 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 AgainIncandescent 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 Great survival story based with a period playlist in the background The end of the Civil War has finally arrived, and in Texas a group of Yankee and Confederate musicians find themselves tasked with providing the music for the night s farewell banquet for the officers from both sides After they are officially dismissed, the fiddler, twenty three year old Simon Boudlin, finds himself in the company of Yankee drummer boy Patrick O Hehir who plays bones and bodhran, piper Damon Lessing, Irish tin whistle, who quotes poetry and literature, and Doroteo Navarro, Tejano guitarist, who can conjure meals out of odd ingredients As the foursome journey through Galveston, Houston, San Antonio, and parts in between, they become a close knit family unit, supporting and caring for one another through the poverty, destruction, and disease which has overtaken postwar Texas Music was most desirable in all sorts of venues, and with the proper songs for bar halls to weddings, they found the means to survive Eventually the surviving members of the troupe are able to overcome their fears and fulfill their dreams of love, family, and land. Thank you to William Morrow and NetGalley for providing an advance copy of this book in exchange for my honest review The book will be published on April 14th, 2020.The best kind of historical fiction a deep, richly painted, description of life in East Texas at the end of the Civil War It s an everyday adventure story not about mythical heroes but about people trying to reclaim their lives in the chaotic aftermath of a devastating war.Simon Boudlin the titular fiddler has simple goals after the war find a piece of land, marry a woman with similar desires, and make a living with his music But life after the Civil War is anything but simple The novel is gritty with detail painting the turmoil of that time with a full sensory experience While some semblance of government is trying to establish itself and put the country back together again, displaced and ruined people are scrambling to survive and make new lives From my modern perspective life then was impossibly hard but in this book it isn t described in an emotional, complaining way It just is the way it is This is the story of people getting on with it making their way by whatever means necessary, while still not losing their way morally.Included are beautiful descriptions of music at the time Simon s lusting for new sheet music that he can t afford, the way music draws yearning and memory from the new mash of people from disparate backgrounds, and the business side how to get gigs, what needs to be played, and how to handle the drunks and disorderlies who insist on disrupting If you liked The News of the World, you ll be just as captivated by Simon the Fiddler in which, Captain Kidd makes a surprise, cameo appearance Beautiful writing that gets to essences Some quotes His worrying kept him awake The country was in chaos, there were no rules, law was a matter of speculation, nobody knew how to buy land or put savings in a bank since there were so few banks, how to get a loan, register a title to land, or legalize a marriage, everybody was dubious about the new federal paper money, there was little mail service, and nobody seemed to know where the roads led So he lived in the bright strains of mountain music and the reflective, running pool of the Irish light airs that brought peace to his mind and to his audiences peace soon forgotten, always returned to Every song had a secret inside When he was away from shouting drunks and bartenders and sergeants and armies, he could think his way into the secret, note by note 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 His first problem was to find a girl who would fall in love with him despite his diminutive stature and his present homelessness People always tired him, always had, always would He was ragged, a man of a defeated army and at the dinner he had played his heart out in a borrowed shirt In short, very like the Irish So it s dog eat dog and Devil take the hindmost So it has been in human memory, wild places where the only law is the strength of your good right arm He lifted his arm and made a bony fist That s how it is in all human memory Vastness and Age and Memories of Eld You expect the government and the diplomatic corps to proceed at some foolish breakneck pace There are substatutes to argy over and rewrite And meantime the politicians must be paid their stipends and their travel expenses Become wise, young man, and cynical, and life will be far understandable. I was a huge fan of NEWS OF THE WORLD and was over the moon to be back in the wilds of old Texas again This is a story of a good man who doesn t want to be violent unless you touch his fiddle but the world doesn t always allow him to stay silent or defenseless Simon does his best to protect his fellow musicians and earn the love of an Irish governess he falls in love with from afar He is a gentle soul caught in a violent wind of post civil war Texas The story is woven with peppery phrases and soulful ballads with characters you care deeply about You finish the last page and just want it doesn t get any better than that Every Texan should read this as well as lovers of well written western historical fiction and stories where the kind hearted hero gets the girl My thanks to the publisher for the advance copy. What a wonderful story about hope, integrity, redemption and the resolve to set your path in life.At the end of the civil war, one young man, although having come through the devastation of that war, knows what he wants to do with his life and what he needs to do to reach that end Music plays such an important part of this story they all shared memories of the chaos of the Civil War, of death and destruction, poverty, dislocation But he had his music He could lift them out of all that for a few moments Music is clean, clear, its rules are forever, another country for the mind to go to Beautifully written and so descriptive of the era Thank you to the author, publisher, and Edelweiss for an advanced reader s copy. Hauntingly beautiful Jiles is somehow able to bring Simon and his fiddle to life, so that we hear his music and feel his love for a dark haired Irish girl he has seen only once for a few minutes time The story is set in south Texas at the end of the Civil War and in the unsettled times following Jile s research, as always, is meticulous in every carefully drawn detail, but the history is never allowed to overpower the story I loved Enemy Women and News of the Worldbut Simon the Fiddler is even better.