The Giver of Stars
Author: Jojo Moyes
Published by: Penguin Books
My Rating ★★★★★
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 his 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 Baileyville turns against them, will their belief in one another – and the power of the written world – be enough to save them?
Inspired by a true story, The Giver of Stars is an entertaining, immersive and incredibly moving historical fiction novel.
I wasn’t sure what to expect from this book. I did enjoy the author’s book, Paris for One, which also included several other short stories, but I must admit I just personally didn’t love the Me Before You series as much as I know many readers did. However, The Giver of Stars is a completely different kind of book and I have to say, I loved it. As I started reading, I very quickly found myself really enjoying the story and the magnificent setting of Baileyville and its rural beauty.
The novel is based on true events and people, yet it is Moyes’s rich character development and the story line of these ladies that really drives the novel. I was gripped from the start, and so enjoyed getting to know the main female characters.
The story centres mainly around Alice and Margery. Alice is an English woman who is quite restless and not understood by her family, so she impulsively jumps at the chance of marrying an American man, hoping this will give her the opportunity for new adventures. Sadly, Alice’s marriage is not what she hoped it to be, and she soon finds herself feeling very unhappy with her situation. I couldn’t help but feel for her, alone in a new country with an overbearing, violent father in law and a thoughtless husband. When Alice begins volunteering to help with the travelling library, she relishes in the freedom it brings her, and I particularly enjoyed how the author explored Alice’s love of nature, as she and the other women deliver books packed in saddle bags, in all kinds of weather, winding their way through dark forests and along remote mountain trails.
Margery was probably my favourite character, as she is so strong, independent and sassy. She is very much a woman doing it for herself and living life on her own terms despite what anyone else might think of her. It was great to see someone like this in an era where women were moistly left in the background. It was great to see her standing up and doing something worthwhile. Whilst her and Alice are very much opposites, the friendship that blossoms between the two women was very heart warming and powerful. Despite their various backgrounds and issues at home, the women become a family providing encouragement and support, not only to one another but also to every household they visit to share books and they share the joy of reading with so many different people. Ultimately, they become best friends and end up fighting against injustice.
Eleanor Roosevelt started a traveling library program and many women answered the call to become traveling librarians. Women travelled on horseback to bring books to those living in rural areas. I knew very little of the WPA library but love that I learned more about it from reading this novel. The strength and fortitude these ladies showed is incredible, and the main characters in the book reflect this with their hard work, strength of character and loyalty to one another.
I truly feel this is one of the best books I’ve read all year, so it undoubtedly deserves a five-star rating. This fantastic new standalone novel spins an inspiring tale of companionship and determination during the days of the Great Depression. The writing is captivating and highly entertaining throughout all the ups and downs of the story. I finished the book in just a few sittings and cherished every page. Following five incredible women across the dust bowls and prairies of America, The Giver of Stars is a beautifully told story of friendship and the eternal power of books.
Thanks again to Michael J books, who kindly sent me out a copy of the book to read and review.