The Giver of Stars, by Jojo Moyes
Published by Penguin, 23rd July 2020 (first published on 3rd October 2019)
Genres: Historical fiction, romance, books about books
Trigger warnings: domestic violence, racism
When Alice marries a glamourous American and journeys back home with him from England, she expects to start a new life, completely different from her previous limited, stifled and regulated existence. She imagines romance, freedom, adventure and excitement. In truth, her life does not take the direction she expected, but she does discover all of these things and many more. For Alice joins the Packhorse Library, a group of local women who ride out to the most remote homes in the area, delivering books on loan from their library.
The library will change Alice’s life, as well as Alice herself.
A book about books, and the importance that reading can play in peoples’ lives, as well as strong empowered women and beautiful landscapes!? Yes, YES, yes please, a hundred times yes. No hesitation!
This is a beautiful book. I love the characters, the strong bonds of friendship forged between very different women. The strengths that the women discover within themselves when they are allowed to have their own voices and opinions.
The packhorse libraries were a real project, created in rural Kentucky in the 1930s when over 30% of the population was illiterate and a great many people had no access to public libraries. This initiative helped many people learn to read, and also opened up a lot of new possibilities and opportunities for them. The librarians would not only cross very difficult terrain, in any weather, to deliver books, they also taught people to read and often read aloud to families.
I love the idea of the packhouse libraries, and this initiative was brought to life so beautifully in this book. It does not take a very imaginative reader to believe the mistrust and even fear with which the librarians were first faced. Especially in a very god-fearing region where most people only read the Bible, if they could read at all. I love the development of the story and the relationships between the librarians and the local community.
A truly wonderful book, one of my favourites so far this year, and I could not recommend it enough.
My rating: 5/5