simon the fiddler

4.5 stars

Another gorgeous book from Paulette Jiles set in Texas in the aftermath of the Civil War. The book is so beautifully written I was transported back in time and felt like I was in the room with the characters and experiencing the story with them.

Fiddler Simon Boudlin evaded serving in the military during most of the Civil War. Slight in statue and baby faced, he looked too young to serve. If anyone doubted that, Simon had no problem lying about his age. After a bar room brawl in Southern Texas, fate caught up to Simon and he was conscripted into the Confederate Army. Luckily he was placed in the regimental band and avoided action until the very end.

After the Confederate surrender, Simon and his bandmates are told to play at a gathering for officers and their families from both sides of the conflict. There, he sees Doris Dillon, a young Irish woman who is indentured for three years to a Union officer’s family. Sparks fly between the two and after they part, Simon vows to find Doris one day and marry her.

After being released from the army Simon and 3 of his bandmates drift around Texas scraping by playing in bars and hotels. Simon saves his money and dreams of buying a piece of land, building a house, and moving there with Doris. Simon has a plan, and despite the perils of a new nation and the hard scrabble life he is living, nothing will deter him.

I loved the characters in the book. Simon is hard-working, dedicated to his craft, and once he decides on a plan, will let nothing deter him – even himself and his hot-headed nature. More than once Simon is able to talk himself down and resist getting into a fight, or escalating a situation, for fear that it will derail his plans to find Doris and get married. Doris is hard-working, determined and clever, which makes her a great partner for Simon. She does not let adversity get her down, and even when things look bleakest, is able to keep her humor and good-natured spirit.

There are plenty of heroes and villains, and even a surprise cameo appearance by a beloved character. The author doesn’t delve too far into his bandmates background, other than how they respond to the predicaments they get themselves into and Simon’s actions. Each are given a satisfying, if not sad, ending to their storylines, which I appreciated. Often supporting characters are just kind of left hanging or disappear in a story, so it was nice to see them get their own ending.

Reading this book is effortless. I thoroughly enjoyed it and highly recommend you read it.

I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley and HarperCollins Publishers in exchange for an honest review.