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I yield to no man or woman in my admiration for News Of The World but I was sorely disappointed in this. The tale at least in part of a scratch band ( is that a term of the day ?) in ante-bellum Texas and a very obnoxious fiddler doesn't ring very true. It strikes me as the work of someone who has just had banjo lessons from a very formal teacher and is over-excited by her new knowledge. This band who meet by chance in a Confederate camp talk of their music in the lofty tones of Juilliard graduates discussing keys, harmonies and a cappella interludes in a most unconvincing way. These are meant to be self taught poor people who I doubt would recognize a key if it bit them. In my experience most self taught musicians think in terms of melodies and what sounds right not in terms of its sharps and flats. I've also never met a drummer who could master a tin whistle in a week let alone a day. Most disappointing. Maybe some of the others are better.
PS Subsequent to writing the above I checked with a musicologist who confirmed that no such band of that composition would have existed in that period let alone be called scratch and a little thought makes you realize that no band could have made any living in such an environment ( a single fiddler might), nobody without a classical education would have thought in keys and most damning of all the bodhran does not take its place in Irish music until the mid-twentieth century (Check with Wikipedia) and the techniques used by the drummer are of even more recent invention. Overall shocking research unless I'm missing the point of an elaborate joke
Simon the Fidler is an historical novel set in the chaotic world of Texas just after the Civil War. It is most interesting in the view it provides of this era. As a novel, it is weaker, mostly dealing with the life of Simon and his love for an Irish immigrant girl.
For a different sort of history, I read Simon the Fiddler by Paulette Jiles. It is set in Texas at the end of the War Between the States. There is a final skirmish although the war is over, and it involves Simon’s group. His Confederate camp is attacked during the night, and they all flee, but they regroup and counterattack and drive off the Union troops from their camp. However, Simon’s fiddle has been taken. The news of surrender comes quickly, and the Confederates are mustered and given leave to go after piling their arms. Simon gets his fiddle back unconventionally, and they are dismissed. He and some of his musical friends are asked to play at an event hosted by Colonel Webb, the local commanding Union officer. Simon sees a girl, Doris, at the event, and decides he wants her to be his wife.
The bulk of the story is how he and his partners scrape along in the occupation, and how he persists in his quest for Doris against tall odds. She is indentured to the Webbs so has to move with them to San Antonio. Over time, Simon and his musical friends, have a series of adventures; one dies and another leaves after they play in an area where that fellow was from. The ending portion of the story is when Simon and his one last companion make it to San Antonio where he is able to contact Doris again. Colonel Webb dislikes Simon immensely, so the two lovers have difficulties to overcome, but at the end of the book they are able to do so.
I found the writing in this book to be different somehow. Many of the sentences were short, but it worked. There was a musical theme that went through the book, song titles, words, and so forth. The music danced in Simon’s head. Damon, his friend and whistle player, quotes lines of poetry. The author paints some interesting scenes of Texas as she describes their travels and where and how they lived and made their money. I found the book rather interesting to read, but it was not a page turner for me. The story line was acceptable, and the characters were relatively well drawn, especially Simon since he was the hero so to speak. I rather liked the book in that it was quite readable, gave a picture of that period, and had a relatively interesting set of characters.
After loving News of the World, I decided to read another book by the author. I wish I could say I loved it just as much, but for me it was just okay.
Set in the time period just following the Civil War in Texas, the confusion and roughness of the time played a big role in this story. The story is about a young man who ends up in the Confederate army as a fiddler in the regiment band. After the war, Simon spends his time playing his fiddle to earn money and dreaming of a better life as a land owner and husband to a young Irish immigrant girl he saw one time. Unfortunately, she was under contract as help to a crazy and dangerous colonel. From here, the story spends its time following the efforts of Simon to earn the money for land and the hand of the girl.
I thought there were moments of great storytelling and then stretches of story that didn’t shine as bright. I was ready for the story to come to an end. There was one little Easter egg - Simon gets to meet the Captain from News of the World in one scene.
The story isn’t bad, it just didn’t really draw me in.
When I wrote this I put the wrong author name. Of course it is by Paulette Giles. Everything else I wrote was true. After loving "News of the World" I was eager to read this book by Giles. Simon was a mildly interesting character but story got tedious, despite his many "adventures" in searching for his true love. While I will continue to read this author, this story was disappointing. Please excuse my senior moment -- I'm an octogenarian, so I'm entitled.
Paulette Jiles can really right excellent prose, but this book is OK, not nearly as gripping as some of her earlier novels like Color of lLghtning and Enemy women. The character is a little flat and we ended up not caring quite so much for what happened to him. Far less detail and research seems to have gone into this book than the others. But I still love Paula Jiles.