Simon the Fiddler by Paulette Jiles is set in Texas, just after the end of the Civil War. I am a big fan of Jiles’ previous novel News of the World, which was also set in Texas during that time period. I was excited about this release! Unfortunately….
Simon the Fiddler is not very good.
What is it about?
A fiddler has some misadventures with his band in Texas after the American Civil War.
What is this book like?
Simon the Fiddler can be characterized as a kind of romantic Western. It’s not insightful, creative, original, or pretty enough to really be considered Literary.
The book is written from a limited third-person POV, that usually sticks pretty close to Simon (the main protagonist) but will sometimes, every now and then, for no discernible reason, shift to another character for a sentence or a chapter. These POV shifts feel sloppy, a failure of editing or writing, rather than intentional choices made for specific purposes.
What’s awesome about this book?
The setting. Jiles does an excellent job evoking the environment of Texas during this time period: the cities, the people, the plants and animals.
What sucks about this book?
The story is dull. The ending feels rushed and anticlimactic. The characters are underdeveloped. The ideas of the story – the setting, main conflict, protagonist – are fine, but the execution is severely flawed. I don’t know if the author was coming up on a deadline and had to turn it in before it was done, but the book feels very underworked, frayed, and unfinished. If it hadn’t been set in Texas, I don’t know if I would have bothered to finish reading the novel.
Simon the Fiddler reads more like an early draft that a completed novel. It’s mediocre, and I can’t recommend it to anyone.
TLDR: Read this book if you:
- really, really like Texas history
TLDR: Avoid this book if you:
- have no connections at all to Texas
- want a well-written, satisfying story
Read News of the World instead. It’s actually really good.
My Rating: 3 Stars