‘Simon the Fiddler’ Captures the Transcendent Power of Music [REVIEW]


In post-Civil War Texas, a fiddler with a dream sets out to build a life filled with love and music. (Photo courtesy Canva)

He was always wily and had a knack for evading the conscription officers. Then came the fateful night he finally got caught. Can his passion for song get him through the Civil War? And will his dreams survive intact? Find out in Paulette Jiles’s immersive new historical saga, Simon the Fiddler.

Paulette Jiles's SIMON THE FIDDLER

William Morrow

Simon Boudlin isn’t a large man, a fact which he’s used to his advantage. At 23, he’s used his youthful appearance and skill as a fiddler to earn a living even as he dodged those seeking to draft him into the Confederate Army. Though his employers have helped him out of one sticky situation after another, even his luck can’t last forever, and soon he finds himself thrown into the last vestiges of the conflict. Thankfully his talents land him in a regimental band.

After the Confederates finally surrender, Simon and his fellow musicians find themselves playing for officers from both sides of the war. That’s where Simon encounters the lovely Doris Mary Dillon for the very first time. As compelled as he is by her, he soon discovers that she’s in no position to be courted because she is an indentured servant from Ireland, working as a Union colonel’s daughter.

Although they must go their separate ways, Simon doesn’t forget Doris, even as he travels around Texas seeking fame and fortune with his fiddle and a ragtag group of musicians. After all, she is the lass who stole his heart and captured his imagination, and he is determined to find her again and win her heart forever.

With Simon the Fiddler, Paulette Jiles transports us to the Lone Star State at the end of the Civil War and introduces us to a cast of characters who are as colorful as the music they play. Although this is predominantly a story about the young fiddler who vows to make a career, buy land, and get married to the woman of his dreams, they aren’t the only two characters who steal our hearts.

First, there is the great state of Texas itself. In many ways, the ever changing landscape, especially in the aftermath of the war, challenges the values and determination of the story’s characters. Whether they’re sailing across the briny waters of the Gulf of Mexico, hunkering down in ransacked Galveston, or venturing even deeper into the state in pursuit of success and fans hungry for good music, each setting has its own unique traits, ones Jiles describes sparingly and deftly, which therefore makes for absorbing, insightful storytelling.

Having worked with many musicians over the years, I particularly loved Simon’s band mates. They are each wildly different from one another, and yet their musicality binds these people together, men who probably would not have been friends otherwise. When they perform, they suddenly are all the same age, all from the same place. This novel is a testament to the transcendent power of music, its ability to unify us and sometimes, to even help us escape. That’s why I found this book to be especially prescient now. Jiles explains it best herself when she writes, “Music is clean, clear, its rules are forever, another country for the mind to go to.”

If the current state of the world leaves you with the desire to be transported to another time and place, let Jiles be your guide. Simon the Fiddler will put a smile on your face and a song in your heart.

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Paulette Jiles

Paulette Jiles
(Photo by Jill Gann)


Paulette Jiles is a novelist, poet, and memoirist. She is the author of Cousins, a memoir, and the novels Enemy WomenStormy WeatherThe Color of LightningLighthouse Island, and News of the World, which was a finalist for the National Book Award and is being adapted into a major motion picture.

She lives on a ranch near San Antonio, Texas, where she spends her time feeding and caring for two horses and a donkey, mending fences, hauling feed and hay, and cleaning stock tanks. In her free time, she sings alto in a choir, attends the opera, and travels to visit with family and friends. 

To find out more about Paulette, visit her home on the Web at PauletteJiles.com.

By Paulette Jiles
352 pp. William Morrow. $27.99

TLC Book Tours Tour HostPurchase Simon the Fiddler direct from Jathan & Heather’s Beach Reads Book Shop or at one of these other fine online retailers: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, Half Price Books, HarperCollins, IndieBound, and Powell’s.

Simon the Fiddler is brought to you in association with TLC Book Tours.

About Jathan Fink
Jathan is a journalist, philanthropist, and entrepreneur. He is also a travel junkie, foodie and jazz aficionado. A California native, he resides in Texas.

3 Responses to ‘Simon the Fiddler’ Captures the Transcendent Power of Music [REVIEW]

  1. trish says:

    Jiles never ceases to amaze me, and I think this will be no exception. Thank you for being on this tour!

  2. Sara Strand says:

    Thank you for being on this tour! Sara @ TLC Book Tours

  3. Pingback: Paulette Jiles, author of Simon the Fiddler, on tour April/May 2020 | TLC Book Tours

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