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SIMON THE FIDDLER


[Hear the plaintive song “Lorena” on his violin].

Anyone who read, News of the World by Paulette Jiles, might remember the name Simon “The Fiddler” Boudlin and the love of his life, Doris Dillon. Jiles’s newest work, Simon the Fiddler, brings the life of the young Paducah, Kentucky lad, Simon Boudlin to center stage. Jiles reminds us on her website:

“. . .  Simon from News of the World. . . was playing his fiddle in the Spanish Fort . . .  You remember the love of his life Doris Dillon. This is the story of how they met, how Simon survived the last battle of the Civil War and how they lived through his own terrible mistakes and the chaos of Texas under Reconstruction. It is a story of music and what those who create music must endure in a rough-and-tumble world.

It seems that Simon’s life began on the fly, so to speak. His father, an itinerant fiddler, paused long enough in Paducah to impregnate Simon’s mother and to pass along the genetic predisposition to love music. Simon’s mother died when he was young leaving him double grieved – born a bastard;  now, an orphan. His kind elderly great-uncle, a bachelor, named Walkin’ Dave did his best to raise him.

Throughout the majority of the Civil War, Simon and his uncle thrived and stayed out of the horrific conflict. The day arrived, however, near the end of the war, that their lives were upended. Nathan Bedford Forrest’s forces swept in and burned Simon’s family’s treasured horse barn to the ground and confiscated the horses for the cause.

As a result, Walkin’ Dave walked away. Simon, now in his early 20s, packed his prized violin and set out to make a living performing music gigs where ever he could find them. Present at every turn was the possibility of running into military “conscriptors”, both Union and Confederate, hungry for troops to sustain the fight. He had one advantage; he was slight of build and appeared much younger than his actual age. He also had one disadvantage; a hot-button fiery temper.

Jiles presents a flawed character in Simon. A young man raised in a world without a “normal” family. In her simple style, we follow Simon – a man with a plan as he conceives a future that will bring him peace.

He loved solitude; it was as necessary to him as music and water.

All he needs is a wife, the right wife, a woman that accepts his need for solitude and shares his love of music. A homestead, a place where he can live a life without social interference.

It was there at the Confederate encampment . . . that Simon considered his life and how he would survive in the world to come.

Through the thunder of war, through raucous scenes of bar fights, through placid moments where he is a peace with nature and his own music, we find Simon resolved to live a life of his own choosing. He can be friendly but lacking role models, never learned what it means to be a true friend. He knows what he wants and does what it takes to achieve his dream.

The weakest link in the story is the improbable love story of Simon and Doris. The reader is led to believe that love at the first sight can be sustained while separated through war and reconstruction. The question hangs out there… once reunited and married, can their dream be sustained when facing real life together?

The journey became tedious at times and bogged down with slow motion coverage of the same thing over and over.

The strongest theme throughout the book is the place music plays in life. Ed Power (Irish Examiner, January 31, 2020) expressed the power of music in our lives:

Music moves us – not just physically, but emotionally and psychologically – reducing stress and improving mood. And it’s been doing it for centuries. . . In the darkest days. . . music feels like a shard of light cutting through the gloom.

In the end, I enjoyed the book but News of the World remains my favorite. That said, any book that has me still thinking about issues and the place of music in our lives is a worthy read.

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Night Watch

night-watch-cover

NIGHT WATCH

 by Iris and Roy Johansenblood-splatter4-md

St. Martin’s Press 2016
Hardcover: 352 pgs
978-1250075970
Kendra Michaels #4


★★★☆☆

 

ARC e-book from publisher via edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

genre-mystery

format_quoteAbduction?…I have to let them find me…If I can’t talk you out of this, I’m going to go over possibilities you might fact in captivity…I learned a lot while I was being held by the Taliban…Kendra sat down opposite her at the table. I’m listening…

Iris Johansen started her literary career with straight up romance fiction evolving into the historical romance vein; I am allergic to the romance genre so I avoid them preferring something more rough and tumble. When I read the synopsis of Night Watch, I learned Johansen had turned her talents to crime fiction. I was happy to receive an advanced reader e-book from the publisher via Edelweiss so I could preview this genre change for myself.

Night Watch is the fourth book in the Kendra Michaels series and I was concerned it would leave me at a disadvantage in Kendra’s back history. It turns out this newest book has flashbacks, including details about Kendra’s blindness and the miracle experimental surgery that restored her sight, that makes this book a stand alone work. During her sightless years, Kendra developed extraordinary abilities of smell and hearing. Born with an insatiable curiosity, she uses the miracle of sight along with her overly developed senses to see the world more intimately and acutely than Sherlock Holmes. Her observational and cognitive skills are often used by law enforcement in crime scene investigations.

This newest mystery centers on the disappearance of the doctor that restored the teenage Kendra’s vision. Kendra, ever grateful and loyal to a fault, makes the search for the missing doctor her life’s mission.  As the story picks up steam some very quirky characters including a young former military female private investigator and a sexy and wealthy former FBI agent help her in the search. The obligatory bad guys are really bad and you just know they are going to get their comeuppance in the end.

The first half of the story was kind of ho-hum to me but when things did start to develop I couldn’t put the book down.  Yet in the end, I am not sure I liked Kendra. I couldn’t see what the playboy FBI agent saw in her to make him fly around the world to help her. Just because something is fictional and suspends belief doesn’t mean they have to come across like Flat Stanley; they could have a little more character development.

It was a comfortable read on a night where I needed a quick read that didn’t strain the brain. I will admit that I read well past my bedtime to finish it.  So I guess in the end I would recommend it as a place filler between a heavy non-fiction and your next epic novel.

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