Book Club Reflection: News of the World by Paulette Jiles

16 May

My book club met a few weeks ago to discuss Paulette Jiles’ book News of the World. It was a short book, a nice break after some very long titles over the past few months. For the most part, we enjoyed it.

None of us had read Jiles before but she’s published about fifteen books including poetry, memoir, and children’s. If we hadn’t known the author’s name, many of us would have been surprised it was written by a woman. Captain Kidd was well drawn and the world he lived in felt rather ‘masculine.’ Johanna wasn’t a particularly feminine character either. Though, I do love being pleasantly surprised when an author can write another gender.

I listened to the book but those who read it said there was no quotation marks or other punctuation for dialogue. It took a while for the readers to get used to it. We wondered if she wrote all of her books this way. Maybe it was the influence of writing poetry.

A reader mentioned that the style reminded her of Mark Twain. The main character sounded a bit like Twain as well. He was also a printer in the West at the same time period. It was a flashback to a book we read a few years ago, The Bohemians.

Johanna’s time with the Kiowa made her resilient; she was strong and could endure a lot of hardships. If she’d been the young German girl she was born to be, she may not have been able to survive the trip to her relatives. We laughed when recalling the scene where Johanna wanted to scalp the men who tried to kill them and Captain Kidd deemed that ‘impolite.’

The relationship between the two was cemented late in the novel when Captain Kidd saw how Johanna was being used as slave labor by her aunt and uncle. We felt he may have left her if her relatives had been less cruel to her. We felt she began to trust him early on when they ran into soldiers and he didn’t hand her over to them. She knew he was trying to keep her safe. Though, we thought that Johanna leaving may make the aunt and uncle want their $50 back since they ‘paid’ for her in the first place.

We talked about the title quite a bit and had several interpretations. One was that the book gave us the news of the world of Texas in the 1870s. It told us how the world worked with slavery gone and a post-war economy in fluctuation. It was also how Kidd got news, from the people he ran into and how he saw them interact. He also chose what the news was going to be by selecting different stories for different crowds, deciding what they would know of the world.

The book focused on how different cultures come together to learn and accept each other. Johanna and Kidd were as different as could be as far as age, gender, language, and culture. But they still cared for each other and could be a good team together.

Even though the Civil War is over, it’s not really. There’s only one black character in the book, and he’s restricted his travel because of his race. As free as he is legally, he knows that society doesn’t see it the same way.

This book was great for a discussion. I do enjoy meeting with others to talk about the books I voraciously consume. I’m really looking forward to our next title, Exit West by Mohsin Hamid.

Until next time, write on.

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8 Responses to “Book Club Reflection: News of the World by Paulette Jiles”

  1. Alyssa May 16, 2019 at 11:38 AM #

    This sounds fascinating, and I love that it was a Twain-esque feel. I’ll definitely have to check it out. Thanks for sharing!


    • Sam May 16, 2019 at 12:38 PM #

      I hope you end up enjoying it. It was a really quick read. Happy reading!


  2. Sam Sattler May 16, 2019 at 1:00 PM #

    This is one of my favorite books, and I just re-read it a few weeks ago, in fact. I met the author in San Antonio and she explained the origin of the story (based on a real man who made his living in his later years going from Texas town to Texas town reading aloud the newspapers he got hold of for that specific purpose. If you’re interested, I posted my review of the book (and a video that Jiles made to promote the book) just last week at my blog Book Chase.

    I see that your next bookclub selection is another I read and pretty much enjoyed. It’s well written, if a little dark at times.

    You have a great blog. I enjoyed the visit.



    • Sam May 16, 2019 at 1:35 PM #

      Glad you enjoyed this so much. We had discussed the origin of the book and I’m fascinated to know that Kidd was a more or less real person! What an interesting job.

      I finished Exit West already and agree with your assessment. Very enjoyable. I look forward to posting a review and seeing what others have to say in my book club.

      I hope you come back often. Happy reading!


      • Sam Sattler May 16, 2019 at 7:23 PM #

        I’ll see you around. Would love to have you stop by Book Chase if you can spare the time…I know how much time book blogging takes, believe me.


  3. Rae Longest May 17, 2019 at 4:15 PM #

    My Third Tuesday Book Club read it last year, and we also had one of our best discussions ever. My Better Half read it later, and he, a fan of Westerns, especially liked the ending, as did I. You did an excellent job of reviewing this one, Friend, and I plan to forward the review to friends in our club who read it. R.


    • Sam May 18, 2019 at 9:03 PM #

      Thanks, Rae! I appreciate it. We had a great discussion and I love talking to these men and women about books. It always makes me appreciate them more. Happy reading!



  1. Book Club Reflection: News of the World by Paulette Jiles | Taking on a World of Words - December 24, 2019

    […] sometimes happens with two book clubs based out of the same library, I now have two discussions of News of the World by Paulette Jiles. I don’t think this book was the best fit for my […]


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