Tuesday, October 11, 2016

TLC Book Tours: Review of News of the World by Paulette Jiles

Publisher: William Morrow
Pub. Date: October 4th, 2016
Pages: 224


Longlisted for the National Book Award–Fiction

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.” Yet 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, honor, and trust.

What Did I Think About the Story?

When it comes to historical fiction, I've often found myself drawn to long, weighty books that completely immerse the reader in the details of the time and place the story inhabits. It seems to take a good amount of time to make me feel like I'm right there with the characters, utilizing all my senses to be a part of the world the author is building. So when News of the World came up for review I have to admit to being somewhat skeptical. How would the author make me experience this world in such a limited number of pages? I mean, a 400-mile journey in under 250 pages?! I feel horrible admitting this now because News of the World is a gem of a story and not only tackles that long and arduous journey within its slim pages, but presents two of the most admirable and heartfelt characters I'm come across in a while.

The story's formatting did take some time to get used to, with no quotations around the dialogue and a sparse, bare sort of style, but once I got used to the pattern I very much began to enjoy it. The style matches Captain Kidd's personality very well and, as he's the narrator, this began to make perfect sense as the story developed. The writing is true and honest, yet curt and grounded, with a light sprinkling of humor and sarcasm thrown in from time to time. It became so easy to see Captain Kidd, this gritty yet compassionate old man, as he dealt with a world he wasn't quite sure he liked anymore and a young girl who was set to change his world whether he liked it or not. The way the author wrote Johanna's small yet pointed dialogue was perfect as well, with her strange yet endearing way of speaking and her determination, pride and bravery always at the forefront, I completely became enamored with her. The odd yet beautiful relationship these two very different characters develop is delightful and I'm amazed as much heart and feeling could be expressed in so few words.

This relationship between Johanna and Captain Kidd was so touching. At the point where we meet Captain Kidd, he's become bored, disillusioned and even depressed with the life he was living. Being put in charge of Johanna, as aggravating as she could be at times, gave his life a new purpose. She kind of brings him back to life, giving him meaning and structure and something to care about beyond the news and his family far away in Georgia. In turn, he begins to calm this wild child and allows her to remember not only a language she had forgotten but the realization that there was kindness in this strange world of the white man. They're both brave, tough, and determined, and each does there part to bring love and life back to the other.

Something else I really appreciated about the story was the way the time period was expressed and the depth that was given in regards to the politics and changing landscape the US was undergoing at the time. I haven't read much about the US post Civil War, but, again, I was amazed at the breadth of knowledge that could be expressed in such a short amount of time. I could perfectly feel the danger and fright that existed so close to Indian territory as well as the anger and resentment on both sides of the political divide, and the skillful way Captain Kidd juggled all of these things to stay alive and deliver his charge as he promised.    

My only complaint (not that it's that much of a complaint) would be that the pivotal turning point at the end of the book (I don't want to say too much and give anything away) went down a little too cleanly to seem realistic and seemed to wrap up quickly and neatly for a story that held so many obstacles. When all the figurative mountains these two had come across took fighting to get through, why this final mountain would be so easy just seemed odd. That being said, the very end of the novel brought me to tears and I realized that this short book had held an epic and arduous journey that can't be known from just looking at the page count. I felt like I had been on a long, hard road with these two and was just as cathartic and enlightened by the outcome as they were.

I can't forget to mention the wonderful marketing material that came with my Uncorrected Proof copy of the book. One side of this sheet is a map of Captain Kidd and Johanna's journey, so the reader can follow along visually, and the other side are reviews written in the format of a newspaper such as what Captain Kidd would have read to his audiences. I just love little touches like this, and it goes a long way to making me enjoy the reading experience even more.

News of the World is such a divine study at what it really means to be a family, and how you never know what path your life might take or where that path might lead you. It is not hard to see why this book has been long-listed for the National Book Award and I'm so glad I took a chance and went along on this exciting and touching journey.

What Did I Think About the Cover?

I think it must be incredibly hard for a publisher to come up with a cover that perfectly captures the story, whether that be because of issues finding a cover model with the appropriate color hair, style of clothes, wrong background, wrong time period detail, what have you. Somehow finding a way to incorporate all of the details within a story into one image that not only represents the story but grabs the attention of a future reader seems near impossible. Well whoever designed this cover did a brilliant job! Not only does the background image, colors, and font perfectly represent the time period and feel of the story, but the little girl leading the horse along is Johanna! Our wild girl seemed to much prefer walking alongside the horses to riding in the wagon. I didn't even notice that little detail until after I read the story, but it just  makes me love the cover even more!

My Rating: 4.5/5.0

Thank you so much to Harper Collins Publishers and TLC Book Tours for providing me with a free copy of News of the World in exchange for an honest review. Please find more information about the book, author, and the rest of the blog tour below.

About the Author

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.

Buy the Book

New of the World Blog Tour Schedule

Tuesday, October 4th: Broken Teepee
Wednesday, October 5th: Bibliophiliac
Thursday, October 6th: FictionZeal
Friday, October 7th: Just One More Chapter
Monday, October 10th: BookNAround
Tuesday, October 11th: The Paperback Pilgrim
Tuesday, October 11th: A Literary Vacation
Wednesday, October 12th: Sara’s Organized Chaos
Thursday, October 13th: No More Grumpy Bookseller
Friday, October 14th: Booksie’s Blog
Monday, October 17th: Kahakai Kitchen
Tuesday, October 18th: Lesa’s Book Critiques
Wednesday, October 19th: Books on the Table
Thursday, October 20th: Dwell in Possibility
Monday, October 24th: Tina Says…
Tuesday, October 25th: Cerebral Girl in a Redneck World
Wednesday, October 26th: Literary Quicksand
Thursday, October 27th: A Bookworm’s World
Friday, October 28th: Art @ Home
Monday, October 31st: The Book Diva’s Reads
Tuesday, November 1st: Man of La Book


  1. OH - the map is a MAGNIFICENT addition. It would be wonderful if that information was included in the book - perhaps as the end papers?

    1. Isn't it, though?! I really hope they add the map to the end papers as it was so much fun following along visually with their journey!

  2. Like you, I often expect a "good" historical novel to be long and detailed. Having such a great story in so few pages is a rare treat.

    Thanks for being a part of the tour!

  3. Replies
    1. Oh my gosh, it was so good! If you do read it let me know what you think!