My book review of 'The Giver of Stars' by Jojo Moyes
Inspired by an initiative in 1930s America called the WPA Horseback Librarian programme, this novel imagines the lives of a small group of women who undertake to deliver books to inhabitants of remote regions of the Appalachian Mountains.
It's a fascinating insight into a little known project which sought to bring the joy of reading to people who wouldn’t be able to access libraries or books themselves. And it was predominantly women who travelled on horses through a treacherous landscape, loaded with up to 100 books at a time.
Within this historical context, Jojo Moyes has introduced her characters and their desires for romance, fulfilment and independence in a patriarchal society.
Alice is a young Englishwoman who marries a wealthy American and returns home with him to small town Kentucky. She has high hopes of her new life, but in fact her marriage is unhappy and she doesn’t find anything stimulating to do in the stifling community she’s moved into.
Then there is a call for volunteers to undertake a Horseback Librarian programme. It’s led by Margery O’Hare, a determined, independent woman who is passionate about this goal to encourage reading in the poor and isolated.
Alice gets involved and the novel then recounts her experiences, her friendships, the challenges and rewards of going out into this landscape and meeting the mountain people.
We also learn of the hope for romance, fulfilment and independence in both women within a very restrictive society where nothing is forgotten and feuds between families come to haunt generations.
And there’s also a suspicious death, so things take a very sinister and potentially tragic turn.
It's a fabulous read with engaging characters and a strong storyline. Set in this historical backdrop, celebrating the joy and value of books, it's a rich, stimulating and uplifting read. Highly recommended!