This is my first Paulette Jiles book. And it was an amazing experience. For a small book (200-something pages) it packs a huge punch.
News of the World is a story about a senior gentleman and a 10-year-old girl, set in 1870. Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd is someone who travels through northern Texas and gives readings from newspapers to audiences who pay. Captain Kidd is an elderly widower with two grown daughters who has lived through three wars and fought in two of them. He is content with life and enjoys his time travelling alone all over giving readings.
After a reading in Wichita Falls, he is offered a $50 gold piece to deliver a girl, Johanna, to her relatives in San Antonio. Johanna Leonberger is a 10-year-old child, who was captured by a Kiowa raiding party when she was 6 years old after they had killed her parents and her sister. She considers herself Kiowa and refers to herself as Cicada.
I am astonished, he said. The child seems artificial as well as malign.
Captain Kidd takes up the task of transporting Johanna to her relatives. The journey is a long one. And Johanna is not a civilised white child, she is a hellion. Captain Kidd takes her to a whore house to prepare her for the journey. They bathe and dress her. Though the place is left with water dripping through the floorboards onto the parlour below.
As their journey progresses, Johanna and Captain Kidd begin to trust each other and earn their mutual respect. Johanna learns her English; Captain becomes Kepden and Johanna is Chohenna. Johanna begins to enjoy her life with Captain Kidd. They face a lot of challenges – brigands, slavers, etc, but they overcome it together.
Laughter is good for the soul and all your interior works.
When they reach the destination and Captain Kidd hands over Johanna to her relatives, he is actually sad to let go of the little girl who calls him Kontah (grandfather). The story doesn’t end there of course.
Paulette Jiles has woven magic with her words. It is a jam-packed book, for so few pages convey so much. Her story has such details in depictions and the research into the time period is impeccable. As Captain Kidd reads his news, we gather information about that period. As Johanna looks at her surroundings and thinks about what’s happening around her, we understand the Kiowa better.
News of the World has everything going for it. If you had a special bond with your grandfather you will definitely love this book. It is a book that portrays the love for adventure and how it brings two vastly different people together. It is about how two humans from the far ends of a spectrum overcome the differences in culture to become a sort of family unit.
News of the World is a great read and I would recommend it to everyone.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars