In the aftermath of the American Civil War, an aging itinerant news reader agrees to transport a young captive of the Kiowa back to her people in this morally complex, multi-layered novel of historical fiction from the author of Enemy Women that explores the boundaries of family, responsibility, honor, and trust.
Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd travels through northern Texas, giving live readings from newspapers 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.” Yet as the miles pass, the two lonely survivors tentatively begin to trust each other, forming 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.
GENRE: Historical Fiction
PUBLISHER: William Morrow Paperbacks
RELEASE DATE: June 20, 2017 (reprint)
“…the news of the world aged him more than time itself.”
News of the World by Paulette Jiles intrigued me from the moment I read the back cover blurb. When I saw all the 4-star and 5-star reviews on Goodreads, it became a must-read for me and I eagerly signed up for the blog tour. Yet to be honest, once I began reading it for myself, I had a difficult time embracing it.
I love the history woven seamlessly and creatively throughout the story. I love the Captain. I love Johanna. They are great characters! I love their journey together.
But, I had to get past a distracting formatting choice (in the finished copy, not a proof) that really slowed down my overall reading speed and – therefore – my level of enjoyment. The decision (whether intentional or an oversight) to not distinguish dialogue with quotation marks or even separation from the narrative continued to trip me up as I read, taking me twice as long to read it, and made the book feel somewhat ‘stream of consciousness’ which I don’t care for.
For example (copied exactly from the preview you can find on Goodreads):
He glared at them and then said, Next. The Captain shook out another newspaper. The latest from the New-York Tribune states that the polar exploration ship Hansa is reported by a whaler as being crushed and sunk in the pack ice in its attempt to reach the North Pole; sunk at seventy degrees north latitude off Greenland. There is nothing in this article about survivors. He flipped the page impatiently.
Now, the context of this scene is that the Captain is reading the ‘news of the world’ to those who have gathered to hear him. A really intriguing aspect of his character, by the way. Maybe you can see what I’m talking about from the above example. Maybe not. Or maybe it doesn’t bother you. That’s great! You’ll probably love this book then!
Tons of other people have! I read their reviews on Goodreads and thought maybe I’m missing something key here.
And then I noticed that several of the highest-praise reviews are about the audiobook edition of News of the World. So I downloaded it (thanks, Audible credits!) and wow! Huge difference!! The narrator does an awesome job with the mood of the story, the voices of the characters, and the cadence of the narrative. I normally don’t even like audiobooks but I think if I had gone this route originally I would have been much happier with the book overall!
Bottom Line: If the example of the formatting that I included above made you twitchy too, go straight for the audiobook on this one! The narrative fits the characters, something which shines in the audiobook version, and having a narrator decide where all the dialogue should be made all the difference for me. The story is heartfelt and heartwarming, and the history of post-Civil-War Texas is fascinating and engaging.
(I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book which I received from the publisher, and an audiobook which I purchased on my own. All views expressed are only my honest opinion.)
My Rating: I’m not actually going to rate this one b/c it would depend on which version I was reading!
See what others are saying: TLC Tour
Paulette Jiles is a novelist, poet, and memoirist. She is the author of Cousins, a memoir, and the novels Enemy Women, Stormy Weather, The Color of Lightning, Lighthouse Island, and News of the World. She lives on a ranch near San Antonio, TX.
Find out more about Paulette at her website.
Other Books by Paulette Jiles
What about you? When has an audiobook made a difference for you liking or disliking a book?