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The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes - Review

Saturday, August 22, 2020

This book was the book club choice for August. My friend Caroline chose it; she and I often have similar taste in books so I thought this would be good, but I was also a little apprehensive because I've never read Jojo Moyes before and I didn't like the premise of Me Before You. I went into this knowing literally nothing about it, and I think that really helped. 

The book is set in Eastern Kentucky in the late 1930s. Alice is an Englishwoman who is firmly middle class, who met a man in England who was travelling with his father (and maybe a pastor? I'm a little unclear there). Bennett Van Cleve is the only son of Geoff Van Cleve, who owns a mine in Baileyville. Alice has been a little disgraced in her family and is convinced that marrying Bennett will be the right idea. She travels back to America with father and son, and tries to settle into the family home. Bennett's mother is dead but all her things are still in the house and both men speak of her very reverentially. 

Alice tries to get on with Bennett, but he pushes her away sexually and she is left feeling rejected. At a town meeting, Mrs Brady announces that a new library will be opened in the town, which will take library books to people living high up the mountains, with "packhorse librarians" taking the books. Alice volunteers for a job, much to the disgust of Bennett and his father. 

The head librarian is a woman called Margery O'Hare. The O'Hares are notorious around the area thanks to their drunken and violent ways and the fact they were moonshiners - people who made an illegal living from distilling their own alcohol. Margery, however, was abused by her father, and is nothing like the rest of her family. However, she is a little unconventional - she lives alone with her dog, but has been in a relationship with Sven, who is a fireman at the mine. He wants them to get married, but she's unwilling to be tied to any man. She is not 'ladylike' and is not scared to protect those she loves very fiercely.

The other librarians are Beth and Izzy, who is Mrs Brady's own daughter. Alice goes riding and soon makes friends on her rounds, bringing books to people who couldn't otherwise access them and who, in some cases, are new to reading.

It's a tough life, nature is cruel and times are hard. Nothing improves between Bennett and Alice and around Christmas of 1937 everything falls apart. Alice and Margery are the main narrators of the book and I liked them both very much. 

I did find the book very compelling and easy to read. I wanted to know what would happen next and I dearly wished for all the men to get their comeuppances and for Alice to find happiness. I loved the mountain people encountered. I felt that the ending was very happy and maybe a little overly so, but I was willing to forgive it as I had enjoyed everything that had led up to it. I am giving this five out of five because I thoroughly enjoyed it. 

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