BOOK REVIEW: The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes

'Alice had come halfway across the world to find that, yet again, she was considered wanting. Well, she thought, if that was what everyone thought, she might as well live up to it.'
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 - daughter of a notorious felon and a troublesome woman 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 Baileyville 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.

Publisher: Michael Joseph
400 pages
October 3rd 2019

I am a big fan of Jojo Moyes and Me Before You is one of my favourite books so I was obviously going to be very excited when I realised that she had a new book out. The Giver of Stars is historical fiction at it’s best and based upon a true story, it will leave you wanting to know more about the women who inspired this fantastic story. 
Alice Wright has left her rather stuffy and unwelcoming home in England to follow her heart and marry Bennett Van Cleve of Kentucky. She finds herself a stranger in a very foreign land with a husband ruled by his father and a rather unwelcoming society. Faced with endless days alone and a husband who seems terrified to come anywhere near her, Alice jumps at the chance to get involved with a new initiative. The Horseback Librarian Program was set up by Eleanor Roosevelt in the 1930’s and the aim was to get literature out within the rural communities. The idea was to share information, encourage children to learn to read and provide education to those who may not receive it in any other form. Margery O’Hare, the daughter of a renowned Moonshiner is leading the way and she recruits Alice with several other women, Izzy, Beth, Sophia and Kathleen. 
For Alice it brings a whole new lease of life, she is out all day on a horse, travelling across wild terrain and encountering all different walks of life. Once she has proved herself she begins to make friends with this small tight-knit group of women and she finally has something that makes Kentucky feel like it could be a home. However, Bennett’s father is against the library from the very start and he has reasons to dislike Margery O’Hare, he sets out to bring them all down, his daughter-in-law included. Events spiral out of control and soon they are all in real danger with the town against them, can they turn it around and continue doing their good work or will prejudice and bigotry finish them off?
I have no idea why but I always avoid books set in the South but I’m so glad I read this one as it was fantastic. I loved the setting, the female characters, the truth behind the story and the many themes that Moyes included.
Each of the women involved in the library have their own story and they are all quite distant at the beginning and a little wary of each other. It was lovely to see these women come together until they become the best of friends and prepared to do all they can to look out for each other. Alice and Margery were my favourite characters, they are both incredibly brave in their own ways and have so much to give, it was very frustrating to see the town turning against them when they are doing so much good.
There is a romantic element to the book which was so well done, both Margery and Alice have love interests but both are hesitant to give themselves to these men for different reasons. The male characters in this book are a real mix, you have some very old-fashioned attitudes as you would expect at this time but two characters in particular show it was a time of great change and hope for women with attitudes changing. 
Obviously this book is about books too and the power they yield, a subject matter I am always happy to read about. At a time when many people did not have any access to education and the only book in the house would be the Bible, the Horseback Library Program was revolutionary. To bring literature and educational materials to rural communities saw attitudes and opinions begin to change. These people are living in real poverty and surviving day to day, it was so lovely to see how these books gave real comfort and a little escapism in what was a very difficult life.

I cannot recommend The Giver of Stars enough, I was totally taken with these women and their story from the beginning. Jojo Moyes is just so good at creating characters that you fall in love with and then spinning a fascinating story around them. I urge you to read this book, you won’t be disappointed. 

Many thanks to Michael Joseph for allowing me to review this book via Netgalley, it is published on October 3rd!

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