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What readers think of Chenneville, plus links to write your own review.

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A Novel of Murder, Loss, and Vengeance

by Paulette Jiles

Chenneville by Paulette Jiles X
Chenneville by Paulette Jiles
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Sep 2023, 320 pages

    Sep 24, 2024, 320 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Christine Runyon
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There are currently 5 reader reviews for Chenneville
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Another excellent book
Paulette Jiles is a national treasure. Very few authors can draw you into the narrative like she can.I hope she's still writing at 100!
Zena Ryder

Another great book from Giles!
I loved both News of the World and Simon the Fiddler, so was excited to read Paulette Jiles’ new novel, Chenneville.

If its description as a novel of “murder, loss, and vengeance” makes a reader expect a fast-paced thriller, they’ll be disappointed. Instead, this story is more about the character, John Chenneville, as he doggedly follows a murderer across a vast region of Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Texas.

The Chenneville character is the absolute best thing about this book. Even though he’s bent on a revenge killing for most of the novel (at the beginning, he’s recovering from a major head wound in hospital) he’s still sympathetic.

Perhaps this is because we can all understand wanting revenge on someone who murdered beloved family members. Revenge would be especially appealing given the lawlessness and corruption in the post-Civil War South.

We also love John because he’s a fundamentally kind and decent man, despite not talking much (to the extent of being gruff) and not being afraid to use violence. His kindness extends to horses and dogs, which makes him irresistibly lovable. Even the minor characters come alive on the page and I love the relationships between them and John.

As we read, we’re rooting for John, wanting him to find the murderer, but also not wanting him to ruin his own life by becoming a killer. The ending was crucial. Almost the entire book has been pointing to the end and we’ve imagined how it might go. With this build-up, it would be easy to disappoint. Some readers were disappointed, but I wasn’t. I thought the ending was perfectly suited to the rest of the story.

Many thanks to Edelweiss and the publisher for allowing me to read an ARC.

My pick for Best Book this year
Paulette Jiles’s new book Chenneville is as well-written and absorbing as her previous novels. Jiles takes the reader to post-Civil War Missouri where John Chenneville has returned to his family farm still damaged from an almost lethal head injury. He finds the farm empty of all but one old retainer who tells him his mother has gone and his sister and her family have been brutally murdered.

From this point on, what could have been a typical tale of Western vengeance becomes a much more complex journey for justice and healing thanks to Jiles’s compelling and richly detailed writing. John’s hunt for the killer of his sister’s family takes him far from home and introduces many characters; some kind, some slippery, and some intent on harming him. All have been touched by the War and its aftereffects.

Chenneville is without a doubt the best book I have read this year. From the first page I was pulled into John’s story and the vivid portrayal of the post-Civil War West. I would recommend this title to anyone who appreciates Western tales with well-developed characters and rich, descriptive writing. I will be recommending it to friends and library patrons upon its publication.

Many thanks to NetGalley and William Morrow for the chance to read this exceptional book.
Power Reviewer
Anthony Conty

Good Old-Fashioned Western
"Chenneville" by Paulette Jiles defies gender stereotypes. It has the emotional sensibilities of your best female authors and the lonely Western adventures you expect from the top male writers. Our protagonist, Jean-Louis Chenneville, suffers a massive head wound and returns home to find his sister and family murdered. It reads like a deliberate Western after the costly Civil War.

Imagine an episode of "Law and Order" set up in 1866 with a vigilante interviewing people for information instead of a police officer. Then you have angry, determined John Chenneville. He talks to any helpful soul who has a chance of knowing anything about suspected serial murderer John Dodd. His military experience with Morse Code helped him a great deal.

A novel like this requires an intriguing character since we spent so much time with John. His service and subsequent head wound provides enough engaging stories to tell the reluctant helpers. Since the mission focuses on a singular event, the author needs various techniques to keep the reader interested. You feel isolated as John in the wilderness and long, lonely roads.

Once the outcome becomes more apparent, the tension mounts. How can you assess guilt without knowing the motive or the suspects' whereabouts? Police work was challenging then. The lawlessness leads to some surprising relationships on the road that make the setting more essential to the plot. It took the nation a long time to figure out who it was postwar.

A tall man in a Western-type story with a mystique around him? Could Hollywood do this? Liam Neeson? Vince Vaughn? Joe Manganiello? I am already anxious to see the screen adaptation. Paulette Jiles writes with a distinct patience and deliberate style that I hope Hollywood will respect. If normal award-winners are too much for you, here is some true action.

Wait. What?
The NYT put it best when its reviewer rolled his eyes over "a pair of fortuitous meetings." Seemed like the writer had written herself into a corner and couldn't figure a way out. Time period is fascinating and there are beautifully written passages but the main character never really came to life. Her editor should halve told her to go back and keep working on it...
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Beyond the Book:
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