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
About the author
PAULETE JILES was born and raised in the Missouri Ozarks and moved to Canada in 1969. She spent eight years as a journalist for the CBC in northern Ontario. She is the bestselling author of Enemy Women, a New York Times Notable Book, and winner of the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize and the Women Writing the West’s Willa Literary Award. She has also won the Governor General’s Award for Poetry. Paulette Jiles lives in the Texas hill country near San Antonio.
“Jiles’ sparse but lyrical writing is a joy to read. . . . A beautifully written book and a worthy follow-up to News of the World.”
“Endearing . . . 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 and Elizabeth Strout's Olive Kitteridge will adore the author's latest masterpiece."
<em>Booklist </em><strong>(starred review)</strong>
“Jiles’s limber tale satisfies with welcome splashes of comedy and romance.”
“Beautifully told with lyrical descriptions, the novel illuminates the everyday struggles of the era.”
Christian Science Monitor
“Luminescent prose. . . . Jiles’ timeworn territory provides a cozy escape.
<em>Los Angeles Times</em>
“In Simon the Fiddler we once again accompany a cast of intriguing characters on a suspenseful Texas-based quest just after the Civil War. . . . A crackling-good adventure tale.”
<em>Minneapolis Star Tribune</em>
“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.”
<em>New York Times</em>
"[Jiles's] description of Simon and Doris traveling on separate journeys across the Texas landscape is superb, causing us to feel the elation and sense of possibility that rises in the hearts of man, woman and beast in setting out on the road.”
<em>Wall Street Journal</em>
“Vividly evocative and steeped in American folkways: more great work from a master storyteller.”
<em>Kirkus Reviews </em><strong>(starred review)</strong>