Published April 2020 by William Morrow
Source: my copy courtesy of the publisher, through TLC Book Tours, in exchange for an honest review
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.
Before I blogged, read Paulette Jiles' Enemy Women. It was one of those books that people were passing from friend to neighbor to family member. Three years ago, I read and loved Jiles' last book, News of the World. That time, it was my turn to put the book into everyone's hands; I even made my book club read it and in December we will go together to see the film adaptation of that book. That's how much I love Jiles' stories. It was, then, a no-brainer when I was offered her latest book for review.
Jiles is a master of crafting stories that never sacrifice amazing characters for incredible story lines, filled with enough tension to feel real to the time and place but always with hope. Through all of that, Jiles is one of the best at painting a picture with her words.
"Houston was strung out along a muddy bank of wharves and warehouses much like Galveston except here there was no clear seawater, only the heavy green bayou. Landing stages and steam vessels tossed into the bank, men loaded cotton and hemp, unloaded salted fish in barrels, train oil, shoes, and crates of patent medicines. Along the waterfront were warehouses and leaning shacks where men ran in and out like figures in a cuckoo clock."Like the other books I've read of Jiles', this one is a journey, an unlikely hero seeking a home and family. Along the way, Simon survives by his intelligence, his skill, and by surrounding himself with people who will become like family. In the beginning, I wasn't sure I would like Simon; I thought he might be one of those characters that I'd grow to care about despite his being unlikable. The truth is, I did grow to care about Simon. Not because he was unlikeable in a way I could understand but because I came to understand him and watched him grow as a person, gradually, believably.
This book has already been added to my favorites of the year and, when I can finally put it in other people's hands, I will absolutely be doing that.
full tour here. you can pick up your own copy of the book at HarperCollins.
Paulette Jiles is a novelist, poet, and memoirist. She is the author of Cousins, a memoir, and the novels Enemy Women, Stormy Weather, The Color of Lightning, Lighthouse Island, and News of the World, which was a finalist for the 2016 National Book Award. She lives on a ranch near San Antonio, Texas.
Find out more about Paulette at her website.