Thursday, February 8, 2024

Chenneville: A Novel Murder, Loss, and Vengeance of by Paulette Jiles

Chenneville: A Novel of Murder, Loss, and Vengeance 
by Paulette Jiles
Read by Grover Gardner
11 hours, 49 minutes
Published September 2023 by HarperCollins Publishers

Publisher's Summary: 
Union soldier John Chenneville suffered a traumatic head wound in battle. His recovery took the better part of a year as he struggled to regain his senses and mobility. By the time he returned home, the Civil War was over, but tragedy awaited. John's beloved sister and her family had been brutally murdered. 

Their killer goes by many names. He fought for the North in the late unpleasantness, and wore a badge in the name of the law. But the man John knows as A. J. Dodd is little more than a rabid animal, slaughtering without reason or remorse, needing to be put down. 

Traveling through the unforgiving landscape of a shattered nation in the midst of Reconstruction, John braves winter storms and confronts desperate people in pursuit of his quarry. Untethered, single-minded in purpose, he will not be deterred. Not by the U.S. Marshal who threatens to arrest him for murder should he succeed. And not by Victoria Reavis, the telegraphist aiding him in his death-driven quest, yet hoping he'll choose to embrace a life with her instead. 

And as he trails Dodd deep into Texas, John accepts that this final reckoning between them may cost him more than all he's already lost...

My Thoughts: 
Question for you - has Paulette Jiles ever written a bad book? If she has, it's not one of the four I've read by her. Not only have I enjoyed all four of those books, this will, undoubtedly, the previous two that I've read since I began blogging have ended on my best-of lists in the years I read them. I feel certain this one will be there as well. 

As with the other three Jiles' books I've read, this one is an odyssey. John returns from the war damaged and finds himself not caring about the land he has inherited. So when he finds out about his sister's murder, by a man named, among other things, Dodd, he determines that it will hunt down and kill her murderer, regardless of the cost to himself. As the book progresses, Dodd kills again, which puts John in the position of being both hunter and hunted. The one thing John has going for him is that he has plenty of money to buy things he needs along the way. That doesn't mean, however, that the journey will be easy - he loses his horse, is stranded in a blizzard, goes days with little to eat and almost no sleep, and falls farther and farther behind the man he is pursuing. 

While the book is about John's pursuit, the emphasis is on the characters he meets along the way. Jiles gives us vignettes along the way as John makes stops. A couple of nights with the telegrapher who saves him in a blizzard, a night in the barn of a widow who has been tasked with safeguarding a supply of Confederate clothing and supplies, an evening with a group of soldiers tasked with keeping the peace in post-war Texas, a woman telegrapher who nurses John back to health when he falls ill. I loved the quiet moments as much as I enjoyed the tension of the pursuit and John's encounters with dangers along the way. 

Jiles writing is poetic; she is a master at painting a picture, bringing her setting and time period to life. All of the books I've read have been set in Missouri and Texas; it's a part of the country and its place in history, that she is very familiar with. Her books are filled with the kinds of details that teach readers what life was like at in the 1860's without feeling as if she's merely throwing research at us. 

I'm sure I would have loved reading this book in print (and would have saved a lot of quotes for you), but I can't recommend the audiobook version strongly enough. Grover Gardner was the perfect choice for this book. Whichever you choose, print or audio, I recommend that you definitely add this one to your (I'm sure already long) list of books to read. 

1 comment:

  1. I loved News of the World, so this one is definitely going on my TBR list. I love your description of Jiles's writing--I love reading historical novels in which I get a sense of time and place without feeling like I'm reading a textbook. Thanks for the audio recommendation--I will follow your advice there.