Friday, November 11, 2016

United States: News of the World, by Paulette Jiles

I decided there wasn't much point in trying to select the "best" book to represent the United States on my round the world reading tour. With so many excellent books coming out of the US, it would be an impossible task, so I just picked up a copy of the most recent book that had attracted me, from our local library.

Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd lost his printing business in the Civil War. He is an elderly widower who has lived through three wars and fought in two of them. He now makes a living travelling through North Texas with a collection of newspapers, setting up in small towns and reading extracts to the local residents for a dime apiece. In Wichita Falls, he is offered fifty dollars to take a young girl, rescued after four years with the Kiowa tribe, to her relatives in San Antonio.

Johanna has completely forgotten her former life and believes she is a Kiowa. Gradually, as they journey south through dangerous wild country, she comes to trust the "Kepdun" and they build a relationship.

This is a beautifully told story. The descriptions of the countryside and of the growing relationship are lyrical and poetic, while there is enough action to sustain the tension. I found the style interesting - the author does not use any quotation marks in conversation. This could have been confusing, but wasn't, and somehow managed to give an old fashioned, slightly outback tone to the narrative. And it seemed a fitting week to come across a list of the events of 1870 that the Captain was selecting to relate to his audience - among them the first female law graduate, the first professional baseball team, and the adoption of the donkey as the symbol of the Democratic Party. (Why a donkey? Maybe someone can enlighten me).

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