I appreciated the audiobook Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter because it served as a jumping off point for further reading, viewing, and listening. I became interested in reading books about the Golden Age of Hollywood, viewing movies of that era, particularly Cleopatra, and listening to more books read by the actor Edoardo Ballerini.
Check It Out Category: Historical Fiction
Title: News of the World
Author: Paulette Jiles
Page Count: 213 pages
Genre: Historical Fiction
Tone: Compelling, Lyrical, Character-driven
In the aftermath of the Civil War, Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd, an elderly widower and itinerant news reader, is offered fifty dollars to bring an orphan girl, who was kidnapped and raised by Kiowa raiders, from Wichita Falls back to her family in San Antonio.
SPOILER WARNING: These book discussion questions are highly detailed and will ruin plot points if you have not read the book.
The Library is happy to share these original questions for your use. If reproducing, please credit with the following statement: 2018 Mount Prospect Public Library. All rights reserved. Used with Permission.
1. What might the experience of coming to hear a news reader be like? Did the author’s choice of having a news-reading scene be our first moments of the book help you move into the world of the story?
2. What was your initial impression of Captain Kidd? What details contributed to that impression?
3. Several commentaries offer the observation that News of the World is deceptively simple. What might this mean? Is it a compliment, or is it a neutral observation? Do you agree?
4. Which elements of a traditional Western are evident in News of the World?
5. What do we learn of Kidd’s youth? How does this inform the story? Were you glad to know more about his past?
6. From the first scene in which Johanna is introduced, we are treated to brief moments of her perceptions. How do these glimpses enhance the story? What do we learn?
7. How would you characterize Johanna’s behavior? Is it believable?
8. In what ways does Kidd try to help Johanna become ready for re-assimilation into her new life?
9. Conversely, what does Johanna teach Kidd?
10. Jiles did a great deal of research on captives. Does it show? Does her work make this a better story in any way, or would it not have been much different to either make it up or leave in the background?
11. From what we learn around the edges and from Johanna’s thoughts, would you say the Kiowa are depicted sympathetically?
12. What were some of the memorable encounters along the journey?
13. Describe the reunion between Johanna and her people. How does the Captain try to help? How is he treated?
14. After he left her with family, was the Captain right to intervene?
15. What was your reaction to the lives they created for themselves? Were you surprised? Satisfied?
16. Was John Calley a good man? How would you describe him? What were the three circumstances in which they encountered him?
17. What purpose did the talk Captain and Johanna have on her wedding day serve?
18. Several of the characters, including Britt Johnson and Captain Kidd, are based on true historical figures. Is this surprising? Does this change your perception of them at all?
19. Would you describe this as a realistic story?
20. Where in the novel does the title appear? Does it have significance beyond the literal?
21. What is the primary draw for you about this story: the setting, the bond of characters, the journey?
22. Would you describe this as a quiet novel? Why or why not?
23. What will you take away with you from this novel? What will you remember?
24. What is the significance of the line, “The bones of the Kiowa warriors did not lie in the earth but in the stories of their lives, told and retold – their bravery and daring, the death of Britt Johnson and his men, and Cicada, the little girl taken from the by the Indian Agent, Three Spotted’s little blue-eyed girl”?
25. Jiles asserts that, “using quote marks is like surrounding human speech with barbed wire.” Was the omission of quotation marks distracting or confusing?
26. Does it surprise you to learn Jiles is also a poet? Why or why not?
Want help with your book discussion group? Check out tips, advice, and all the ways the Library can help support your group!
“Paulette Jiles Rides the Dangerous Trails of 1870s Texas” via The Sacramento Bee
“Can a 10-year-old Girl Ever Recover from Years in Captivity?” via The Washington Post
interview with The Dallas News: “Paulette Jiles Explains the Apocalyptic Influence on Her Acclaimed Texas Frontier Novel”
National Book Award Finalist content, including author reading, interview, and judges’ citation
New York Times book review
Paulette Jiles official author website
LitLovers discussion guide
by Terese Svoboda
by Charles Portis
Far As the Eye Can See
by Robert Bausch
Celebrate Women’s History Month by reading a novel about an innovator who made her mark! Whether your interest is in world leaders, trailblazers, or those who persevered, you’ll find a tale in which biographical fact is presented with an emphasis on story. Visit our new display on the second floor or choose from this sampling:
Leading the Way
Art of Inspiration
Laurel Davis Huber
Women Who Rule
Dark Rain and James Alexander Thom
Ruth Sepetys’ Between Shades of Gray might just be part of WWII history that is unfamiliar to some: Lithuanians being displaced into work camps in Siberia. And while the topic is difficult, there is an underlying miracle of hope, courage, and a belief in the human spirit.
One of the inspiring opportunities of Black History Month is the chance to be introduced to talents we might otherwise miss without intention. In this third spotlight (see the first here and second here), our gaze turns to author Alyssa Cole.
Award-winning author Alyssa Cole’s portfolio is diverse, ranging from contributing to RT Book Reviews, Shondaland, and The Toast, to writing sci-fi to working as a science editor. Her latest venture is into historical romance with The Loyal League. Starting with The Extraordinary Union (2017), forbidden love and spies set during the American Civil War make for a steamy compelling read. Cole continues her tradition of writing strong, intellectual woman in A Hope Divided (2017), which follows a healer secretly working for the Union and protecting an escaped prisoner.
by Alyssa Cole
by Alyssa Cole