Today’s book review is all thanks to TLC Book Tours. Once again they have allowed me to discuss an up and coming release, and let me tell you this one was an exciting one to receive in the mail.
News of the World by Paulette Jiles has been getting immense praise, including being a National Book Award finalist, and I am excited to see whether or not American historical fiction is as much up my alley as my other historical fiction interest.
Did News of the World give me a new appreciation for American history? Keep on reading to find out my thoughts and opinions.
It is 1870, and Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd travels through northern Texas, giving live readings to paying audiences hungry for news of the world. An elderly widower who has lived through three wars and fought in two of them, the captain enjoys his rootless, solitary existence.
In Wichita Falls, he is offered a $50 gold piece to deliver a young orphan to her relatives in San Antonio. Four years earlier, a band of Kiowa raiders killed Johanna’s parents and sister; sparing the little girl, they raised her as one of their own. Recently rescued by the U.S. Army, the ten-year-old has once again been torn away from the only home she knows.
Their 400-mile journey south through unsettled territory and unforgiving terrain proves difficult and at times dangerous. Johanna has forgotten the English language, tries to escape at every opportunity, throws away her shoes, and refuses to act “civilized.” As the miles pass, the two lonely survivors tentatively begin to trust each other, forging a bond that marks the difference between life and death in this treacherous land.
Arriving in San Antonio, the reunion is neither happy nor welcome. The captain must hand Johanna over to an aunt and uncle she does not remember—strangers who regard her as an unwanted burden. A respectable man, Captain Kidd is faced with a terrible choice: abandon the girl to her fate or become—in the eyes of the law—a kidnapper himself. Exquisitely rendered and morally complex, News of the World is a brilliant work of historical fiction that explores the boundaries of family, responsibility, honour, and trust.
The historical fiction that is explored in this novel is not of the period I reach for. I tend to reach for British historical fiction so picking up something from post-Civil War American was a nice change.
One quote that I found particularly poignant was when Captain Kidd was speaking about how he doesn’t read the political news in certain parts of Texas because, “Men have lost the ability to discuss any political event in Texas in a reasonable manner. There is no debate, only force.”
It is very reminiscent of speaking about politics in today’s day and age, especially where I am from as I do not represent the political majority.
Even though the length of the book is rather small compared to other historical fiction novels I’ve read, it nevertheless contains just as much emotion as one would expect to find in a 1000 page novel.
The relationship between Captain Kidd and Johanna was stunning. I felt as if the relationship unfolding in the pages of the book were that of what eventually turned out to be in the end.
Also, both Kidd and Johanna were as strong apart as they were together, which was nice to read because sometimes it feels as if characters only work in a narrative if they are with one another.
One complaint I have about the novel, though this could only be an issue with the proof copy, is that dialogue exchanged between characters is not marked with quotation marks. This could have been a stylistic choice on behalf of Jiles, but for me, as a reader, it makes it quite difficult to keep up with which character is speaking at any given time.
Overall Rating: 4 out of 5 stars.
Find out more about Paulette at her website.