When our Third Tuesday book club read Jiles’ News of the World, which was the Gulf Coast read that year, we all enjoyed it so much!
Simon the Fiddler was published in 2020, and we “jumped on” picking it for our May selection like a chicken on a June bug. Because it was the first time we had met in person in over a year and were combining our meeting with a going away party for two of our members who are moving, we didn’t give Simon the time due it. However, although we all said it was ok (Our minds were on other things.), we all agreed it was nowhere near as good as News.
The novel is set at the tail end of the Civil War (when both sides were seeking deserters). After a fight at the tavern where they are playing, A “rag tag band of musicians”, with Simon, the Fiddler as its leader, are conscripted into the Confederate army , and although Simon was only 23 and not interested in serving, his life as a soldier included “cushy” jobs thanks to his skill with his fiddle. After walking away from a battle, Simon and two army friends are hired to play at a party for a Colonel’s daughter that Simon meets and falls head-over-heels for her Irish lady’s maid (indentured servant), Miss Doris Mary Dillon. It was love at first sight.
The story becomes a “captivating, bittersweet tale of the chances a devoted man will take, and the lengths he will go to to to fulfill his heart’s yearning.”
After a brief dance at the party, Simon and Doris are separated, he hitting the road to escape Confederate troops looking for deserters; she traveling to San Antonio with the family who “owns” her. The scraggly band members join Simon, and traveling together, the men have many adventures and some misadventures as well. My favorite was Simon dealing with a huge ‘gator on his river trip to San Antonio to reunite with Doris. After a letter exchange begins, Simon realizes Doris is having to deal with the drunken, lecherous Colonel, and he can’t get to her side fast enough.
Jiles’ second book is good, but not good enough to measure up to her first. However, Fiddler is a fine read on its own.