Alice Wright left England for love: marrying wealthy Bennett Van Cleve and settling in Baileyville, Kentucky. But her new-found happiness is short-lived, because her husband, just like the town, is under the thumb of Bennett’s domineering father.
Stifled and misunderstood, Alice yearns for escape, and is surprised to find it in defiant Margery O’Hare, who recruits women to take books to the needy. But when Alice’s father-in-law, and the town, turn against them, Alice fears the freedom, friendship – and even a new love – she’s found will all be lost.
I was lucky enough to be sent a paperback copy of The Giver of Stars and invited to participate in a readalong on Instagram, celebrating the reissued edition of this book which was originally published in 2019. I love Jojo Moyes’ writing so it was without hesitation that I leapt at the chance to be involved.
English girl Alice moves to a small Kentucky town with her new husband. The first throes of love rapidly cool when they settle into Bailey’s family home, with his domineering father living with them. Meeting Margery O’Hare is a salvation as Alice becomes involved in the newly established Baileyville WPA Packhorse Library. Viewed with suspicion the scheme was developed to promote literacy and access to books for all. In Baileyville this meant the female riders traversed out of the town to offer reading materials to those on the periphery of the community, often people who were illiterate and impoverished.
For Alice her involvement is met with strong opposition from her father in law who held ‘traditional’ views about women working. For her it is liberating, an opportunity to make friends, but this library provision divides the community with the affluent Van Cleve expressing the loudest discontent.
Set in the 1930s the WPA Horseback Librarian programme was an initiative to support literacy and learning and ran from 1935-1943 and bought books to more than a hundred thousand rural inhabitants. Based on fact this book explores themes of inequality based on class, gender and race, knowledge as power and sharing of knowledge through books and literacy. Expectations of women were central for Alice, as a member of an affluent, conservative family she was expected to quietly play the dutiful wife. There were huge ramifications when she did not.
A fantastic read with a strong plot based around the factual history of the library programme. A cast of strong female characters gave the story debt, with all the women making brave decisions to pursue something they believed in. I highly recommend The Giver of Stars and can confidently say Jojo Moyes never disappoints.
Thank you as always for reading.
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, and 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.
The Giver of Stars was a bestseller around the world, including in the United States where is was selected for Reese Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine book club.
Jojo lives in Essex with her family.