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 heart.
In March 1865, 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 band.
Weeks 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 Dillon, an indentured girl from Ireland, who is governess to a Union colonel’s daughter.
After 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 again.
Incandescent 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.
"Jiles’ sparse but lyrical writing is a joy to read. . . . Lose yourself in this entertaining tale.” — Associated Press
Jiles's gritty and richly atmospheric seventh novel returns to the post Civil War Texas she explored in News of the World. In the last year of the war, 23-year-old Simon Boudlin, an orphan musician from Kentucky who has avoided a stint in the Confederate Army, is rounded up by a couple of conscription men. After the war concludes, his body and fiddle still relatively intact, Simon and some friends are commissioned to play for a formal dinner for Confederate and Union officers at Fort Brown, Tex. There he is dazzled by Doris Dillon, the Irish governess for Colonel Webb of the Union Army, and determines that he will somehow buy some land and make her his bride. Simon and Doris trade letters over the next couple of years as he and his friends become "creatures of gaslight and shadows," traveling around coastal Texas for stray saloon gigs, and Doris works off her indentured servitude for the Webbs in San Antonio and fends off unwelcome advances from the colonel. When Simon finally makes his way to Doris, trouble ensues. Jiles immerses the reader in the sensory details of the era, with special emphasis on the demands and rewards of a ragtag Texas fiddle band. Jiles's limber tale satisfies with welcome splashes of comedy and romance.
I liked this story very much. The author writes the scenes so you can see them, almost to the point of making you think you have been there. Simon is a wonderful man, truly a musician, and you can imagine the music he and his mates play in all kinds of venues. The story allows the reader to feel the confusion and painful times of the end of the Civil War and the ensuing couple of years in which the story unfolds. It is well told, this story of Simon.
Simon The Fiddler
One of the best books I have read in a very long time.