I was very excited earlier this year to discover that Jojo Moyes was going to be bringing out a new standalone novel. Like many people, I loved the Me Before You trilogy with the wonderful Lou Clarke and have read and enjoyed most of her other standalone novels too. The Giver of Stars is very different from the Me Before You books but oh my goodness I adored it just as much.
The book is set in 1930s Kentucky and follows a group of women who are packhorse librarians – more about that later. Young English woman Alice Wright has married handsome American Bennet van Cleve and envisages a glamorous life in America, one of high fashion and big cars. But life is very different in small town Baileyville where she finds living with her overbearing and opinionated father-in-law very hard and married life with Bennett is most definitely not what she hoped for.
“Where once it had offered her a welcome sense of freedom, now the vast expanses seemed only to emphasise her sense of isolation.”
When the opportunity comes to work with the library, she jumps at the chance despite her father-in-law’s disapproval. Alice wanted very much to have a conventional marriage but when this was clearly not going to be the case, she found working for the library to be as much benefit to her as it was to the community.
I loved the idea of this very early mobile library which is inspired by the real life women of the Horseback Librarians of Kentucky, who were employed by the US government to take reading material to families in remote areas who may not otherwise have been able to access books. What strong and courageous women they must have been, facing not just the opposition of their communities but also coping with a harsh terrain and conditions. This strength was apparent first of all in Margery, who was a real one-off in that she had no intention of fitting in with society’s expectations. The other librarians Issy and Beth had their own reasons for wanting to work as librarians and with Sophia, a black woman working quietly behind the scenes, the librarian team was complete. The strength and support these women gave to each other was immense, especially when one of them faced real danger. The strong bonds of female friendship meant the women would stand by their friends no matter what – they were feisty!
In The Giver of Stars, Jojo Moyes transports you to a different place and time. It was a time when life for women was very different and being different in any way was viewed with suspicion as ungodly. Particularly in small town Kentucky, women were expected to fit in with society’s expectations and our librarians just did not do that.
I absolutely lost myself in this story, I loved every page and didn’t want it to end. I was very reluctant to say goodbye to these characters who will certainly stay in my mind. The Giver of Stars is a wonderful historical novel and one I highly recommend. It’s definitely going to be on my top reads list this year!
My thanks to the publishers for my advance review copy via Netgalley. The Giver of Stars is available now in hardback, ebook and audiobook formats. It should be available to buy or order from your usual book retailer. You can order a copy online from Hive (where every purchase supports your local High Street). Click here to order: The Giver of Stars.
From the back of the book
England, late 1930s, and Alice Wright – restless, stifled – makes an impulsive decision to marry wealthy American Bennett Van Cleve and leave her home and family behind.
But stuffy, disapproving Baileyville, Kentucky, where her husband favours work over his wife and is dominated by his overbearing father, is not the adventure – or the escape – that she hoped for.
That is, until she meets Margery O’Hare, a troublesome woman – and daughter of a notorious felon – the town wishes to forget.
Margery’s on a mission to spread the wonder of books and reading to the poor and lost – and she needs Alice’s help.
Trekking alone under big open skies, through wild mountain forests, Alice, Margery and their fellow sisters of the trail discover freedom, friendship – and a life to call their own.
But when the town turns against them, will their belief in one another – and the power of the written word – be enough to save them?
Inspired by a remarkable true story, The Giver of Stars features five incredible women who will prove to be every bit as beloved as Lou Clark, the unforgettable heroine of Me Before You.
About the author
Jojo Moyes is a novelist and journalist. Her books include the bestsellers Me Before You, After You and Still Me, The Girl You Left Behind, The One Plus One and her short story collection Paris for One and Other Stories. Her novels have been translated into forty-six languages, have hit the number one spot in twelve countries and have sold over thirty-eight million copies worldwide.
Me Before You has now sold over fourteen million copies worldwide and was adapted into a major film starring Sam Claflin and Emilia Clarke. Jojo lives in Essex with her husband and their three children.