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Sunday, October 27, 2019

The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes

I am a fan of Jojo Moyes. I've read most of her novels, which are usually contemporary. She's written a few historical novels, and I love them just as much as the contemporary novels. The Giver of Stars is an historical novel focusing on a group of ladies who created quite a stir during the 1930's, and all these decades later, their stories are popping up again. I'm talking about the horseback librarians of Kentucky. These were some badass women. 

There is another novel out, that I've reviewed--as a matter of fact, I said it was one of the best novels I'd read in 2019, and it still is--The Bookwoman of Troublesome Creek. Click on the title and you can read my review from May. It is also about the horseback librarians of Kentucky, but this novel is quite different from Jojo Moyes' novel. There has been some kerfuffle about both authors writing about the same subject mere months apart, and how similar the novels appear to be. Well, I've read them both, and enjoyed them both, and I can say they are pretty different stories. 

The Giver of Stars has the delightful Alice, an Englishwoman who's been swept off her feet by Bennett Van Cleve, the handsome son of the local big-wig owner of the mines Mr. Van Cleve. She's married him and traveled to Kentucky to begin a new life far away from her old life--and she couldn't wait to escape the doldrums of her strict life in England. However, life in the small town of Baileyville is not at all what Alice expected, and she's just puzzled at Bennett's inability to seal the deal with her. She's pretty naive, but even Alice knows something is not right. People are expecting her to have a baby, and it's just not, er, happening.  Sitting in the big house, with nothing to do, Alice is becoming desperately unhappy. 

Until the day of the town meeting, when it's announced that a library service is coming to Baileyville, and volunteers are needed to deliver books to folks around town and up into the mountains of Kentucky, to those who live isolated, and often very poor lives in the harsh rural areas of Kentucky. Alice jumps up and volunteers, much to the anger of her father-in-law. She's bored, and has nothing to lose. 

Alice begins her journey from bored housewife to horseback librarian with the help of Margery O'Hare, a smart, self-sufficient, tough as nails woman who runs the library and knows the mountains of Kentucky like no one else. The two women soon become fast friends, and as other women join the library, it becomes a safe haven for Alice, who's home life is increasingly dire.

The cast of characters is outstanding. There are so many, yet it doesn't get confusing. Sven, Margery's steadfast partner, is a strong, solid man determined to wed Margery, even though she's completely against marriage. Fred, a gentle man who owns the property the library sits on, is quiet, loyal, and a shoulder for Alice to lean on in rough times. The other librarians: Izzy, Beth, Sophia, and Kathleen are all amazing ladies each in their own way, struggling to survive in a world that doesn't value education, strong women, or free thinking. Mr. Van Cleve is the bad guy--determined to shut down the library and bring Alice back around to behaving like a proper wife should. He's a real ass. 

The time frame of the novel is roughly a year; there is a lot that happens to the town, to Alice, Margery, and the other ladies. I enjoyed it all, and I loved the final chapter, which gave the reader a peak into the future. After spending time with Alice and the ladies, I was invested in their happiness, and I needed to know what happened after the story ended! 

So yes, read both novels. They are both very different; the only things they have in common are strong women and the pack horse librarian theme. I loved them both. 

Rating: 5/6 for a strong cast of characters that came to life swiftly and completely. A novel about the role of librarians in spreading literacy and changing lives during the Great Depression. Plenty of action. romance, and danger to keep you involved!

Available in hardcover, ebook, and audio. 

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