Title: The Giver of Stars
Author: Jojo Moyes
Published: October 1st 2019
Publisher: Penguin Books Australia
Genres: Fiction, Historical
Rating: 4.5 stars
Inspired by a remarkable true story, the unforgettable journey of five extraordinary women living in extraordinary and perilous times.
Alice Wright has travelled halfway across the world to escape her stifling life in England. Handsome American businessman Bennett Van Cleve represents a fresh start. But she soon realises that swapping the twitching curtains of suburbia for newlywed life in the wild mountains of Kentucky isn’t the answer to her prayers. But maybe meeting Margery O’Hara is. The heart and backbone of the small community of Salt Lick, a woman who isn’t afraid of anything or anyone, Margery is on a mission.
Enlisting Alice, along with three other women, all from very different backgrounds, to join her, the band of unlikely sisters battle the elements and unforgiving terrain – as well as brave all manner of dangers and social disapproval – to ride hundreds of miles a week to deliver books to isolated families. Transforming the lives of so many is all the impetus they need to take such risks.
And for Alice, her new job and blossoming friendships become an unexpected lifeline, providing her with the courage she needs to make some tough decisions about her marriage. Then a body is found in the mountains, rocking the close-knit community and tearing the women apart as one of them becomes the prime suspect. Can they pull together to overcome their greatest challenge yet?
A love letter to the power of books and literature and their ability to bring us together and deliver the truth, as well as a tribute to female friendship, The Giver of Stars is the book that Jojo Moyes was born to write.
‘Well, it would involve riding to some of our more remote dwellings, and providing reading materials to those who might not otherwise be able to travel to the country libraries, due to, say, ill-health, frailty or lack of transportation.’
The number one bestselling author, appreciated worldwide, JoJo Moyes delves into depression era Kentucky with her new novel, The Giver of Stars. This new novel from Moyes is generous story about female friendship, loyalty, passion, hard work and the power of books. The Giver of Stars enthralls from the first page to the last, thanks to unforgettable cast and narrative, which was inspired by the real life achievements of a pioneering group of Kentucky women.
The Giver of Stars begins with Alice Wright, a British woman who makes the decision to marry an American man, saying goodbye to life in England. However, when Alice arrives in Kentucky to begin married life with wealthy Bennett Van Cleve, she finds her new husband is unable to return her affections and her father in law rules the household. This causes great friction. When Alice becomes acquainted with a local scorned woman, her life changes. Margery recruits Alice to help her with her passion project, a travelling library. On horseback, this team of brave and intrepid women spread the love of the written word, by delivering books and conducting readings to the poor families of the Kentucky region. The terrain these women trek to deliver the books is at times treacherous, but their dedication to supporting the poor families of Kentucky gain vital access to books remains strong. When the community turns on them, the women must summon all the strength and belief in one another they can, to retain access to this essential program.
Since I read my first Jojo Moyes novel, Me Before You, when it released, I have enjoyed slowly making my way through Moyes’ backlist. I appreciate her contemporary fiction novels, namely the Me Before You series, along with her historical novels. The Girl You Left Behind is one of my personal favourites from Moyes. I was really excited about this new historical based novel from Moyes, and the fact that this story is inspired by the real life adventures of a group of revolutionary women, hooked me right in .
Moyes situates her new novel well within her historical time period and location. The sense of place is conveyed with ease throughout the entire duration of The Giver of Stars. Moyes provides us with a full and accurate picture of life in depression era Kentucky. This is a place of great beauty, but it is also characterised by dangerous terrain. The women are at the mercy of the elements when they embark on their horseback library service project.
‘She needed time to process the scale of the land she had navigated, the feeling, as they had picked a horizontal path through a vertical landscape, of being truly in the wild for the first time in her life, the huge birds, the skittering deer, the tiny blue skink lizards.’
The initial idea to set this mobile library service was admirable one, and it was quite the game changer for this time period, as well as location. Addressing the below standard literacy levels of the poorer citizens of a region in America was utterly engrossing, as well as inspiring. The Giver of Stars tackles a number of weighty themes within the context of the narrative. Moyes explores marital relations, racial prejudice, societal attitudes, moral conventions, class distinctions, poverty, domestic abuse, mining disputes, environmental concerns, landscape and injustice. Ultimately, The Giver of Stars is a powerful and arresting story, that will have you thinking hard about the pertinent issues raised, long after the novel has reached its conclusion.
The Giver of Stars is at its heart a touching tribute to the power of female friendship. We witness this firsthand, through the interactions of the team behind the mobile library service of Kentucky. There are good times and bad. There are marriage unions, separations, love affairs, births, accidents and deaths to contend with. However, each woman comes out stronger by the close of the book, which was endearing.
What I loved most about The Giver of Stars was the emphasis on literacy, books and reading. For this booklover, educator and general ambassador for reading, The Giver of Stars really struck a chord. I loved the Kentucky travelling reading service, it worked to address the access and low literacy levels of the community of this area of the United States. The Giver of Stars is an uplifting and heartening story, that provides us with a lasting reminder about the capability of books, reading and a handful of determined women, who set about making a true difference in their community.
Whether you are a devoted fan to the work of Jojo Moyes, or you are a newcomer, The Giver of Stars is a truly special read. The Giver of Stars is a novel that is guaranteed to reach out and touch a booklover’s heart. Highly recommended to all.
The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes was published on 1st October 2019 by Penguin Books Australia. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.
To learn more about the author of The Giver of Stars, Jojo Moyes, visit here.
*I wish to thank Penguin Books Australia for providing me with a free copy of this book for review purposes.