I adore Jojo Moyes books – I’ve read a few of them now and loved them.
Her newest book, The Giver of Stars, caught my eye in my local supermarket a few months ago. The gorgeous cover stood out on the shelf and I just had to buy it.
This is the first historical novel I’ve read from Jojo Moyes and I was really interested to see what it would be like as it’s so different from her usual books.
So, let’s get into the review…
Who wrote it?
The fabulous Jojo Moyes.
How long is ‘The Giver of Stars’?
400 pages but you can easily zip through it.
So, what happens?
The book is set in Depression-era America and centres around an Englishwoman called Alice, who travels to the US after marrying her Kentucky-born husband, Bennett Van Cleve.
When married life doesn’t turn out quite as Alice had hoped, she volunteers to work at a packhorse library, delivering books to people in the Kentucky mountains.
Much to her father in law’s disappointment, Alice befriends Margery O’Hare – a young lady known for her infamous family name. Over time, Alice finds herself drawing closer to the women she works with and distancing herself from the Van Cleve family.
When a man is found dead on the mountain, suspicions are quickly raised around the packhorse library and Alice’s friends find themselves embroiled in a murder enquiry.
What are my thoughts?
I have to admit that it took me a while to get into this book. That was simply because I was so busy that I couldn’t find the time to sit down and spend time with it. Also, after reading Ragtime, I was really trying to hear Alice’s English accent amid the voices of her American neighbours.
Once I found myself on furlough with plenty of time on my hands, I could really dedicate a chunk of it to reading and I absolutely raced through it.
And what a dream of a novel it was.
Firstly, the characters are drawn so well. I really sympathised with Alice’s predicament in a loveless marriage – you could feel the claustrophobia of the Van Cleve household and the shadow that the late Mrs Van Cleve cast over it. And in contrast, I could also strongly connect with Margery’s passion for her library and the mission that the librarians were on – connecting people with literature.
Secondly, you got a real sense of place and time. Jojo Moyes is a master in emotions and I completely expected that from her but she also absolutely nailed the historical aspects of the story. The setting of Kentucky is described so beautifully – I could see it all before me. The little library, the town, the mountains looming up behind. It was all crystal clear in my mind due to Moyes’ perfect descriptions.
The tensions between different members of the community are really felt too and these start to come to a head after the discovery of the body on the mountain – that’s when the book really started to pick up speed for me. I could barely put it down after that point.
Another thing that was very pertinent for me was certain members of the community judging Margery for being an independent woman who lives alone and has no need of a man. It really seemed to highlight the expectations placed on young women in particular and the hardy character you had to be to assert your own authority.
Each member of the packhorse library has their own cross to bear and as we walk through the novel, we see each woman come into their own and acknowledge their talents as well as their own dreams.
I couldn’t put this book down and I would highly recommend it.
5/5 – a gorgeously written book with a riveting storyline that keeps you captivated throughout.
Do you have any recommendations for me?