Book Review: The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes

TheGiverOfStarsCoverOfficial Synopsis from Goodreads: England, late 1930s, and Alice Wright — restless, stifled — makes an impulsive decision to marry wealthy American Bennett Van Cleve and leave her home and family behind.

But stuffy, disapproving Baileyville, Kentucky, where her husband favours work over his wife and is dominated by his overbearing father, is not the adventure — or the escape — that she hoped for.

That is, until she meets Margery O’Hare, a troublesome woman — and daughter of a notorious felon — the town wishes to forget.

Margery’s on a mission to spread the wonder of books and reading to the poor and lost — and she needs Alice’s help.

Trekking alone under big open skies, through wild mountain forests, Alice, Margery and their fellow sisters of the trail discover freedom, friendship — and a life to call their own.

But when the town turns against them, will their belief in one another — and the power of the written word — be enough to save them?

Inspired by a remarkable true story, The Giver of Stars features five incredible women who will prove to be every bit as beloved as Lou Clark, the unforgettable heroine of Me Before You.

Genre: Historical Fiction
Setting: Eastern Kentucky, 1937
My Copy Came From: I borrowed the hardback from my local library.

*** this post contains affiliate links ***

Review: Heartwarming historical fiction! The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes is a lovely, sweet read set in 1937 Kentucky and focuses on the Baileyville WPA Packhorse Library. Pack horse librarians were a real thing, and the librarians (mainly women) would ride horses and deliver books to those in the country. The Giver of Stars focuses on a fictional group of these women.

“It’s women doing the riding. Delivering the books.”


“By themselves?” came a man’s voice.

“Last time I looked, God gave ‘em two arms and two legs, just like the men.”

The main character of the story is Alice Van Cleve, a British woman who marries an American, Bennett Van Cleve, in order to escape her life in England. She just doesn’t fit in with her family, and feels unfulfilled. Bennett and Alice’s relationship (and lack thereof of a sexual relationship) is a big part of the book. Alice tries to navigate married life with the closed-off Bennett (whom she does love), and Bennett’s overbearing father. She joins the Baileyville WPA Packhorse Library so she has something to do. She meets her fellow librarian, the bold and modern Margery O’Hare, who I can definitely describe as “not taking any guff”, especially not from any man! Margery and Alice become fast friends, and Bennett’s father despises their close relationship, causing much tension in the household.

Other librarians include Beth, another go get ‘um type, Izzy, a young gal who walks with a limp due to polio, and Sophia, a black woman with library experience. Other characters include Sven, a miner in love with Margery, and Frederick, who falls in love with the married Alice. This group of characters really worked well together, and they felt authentic and like they’d get along “in real life”. Sometimes I feel books force characters together, but the characters all felt right at home here and I felt that they actually liked each other. It was nice to read.

“Kentucky, huh? Most beautiful place on earth, and the most brutal. Sometimes I think God wanted to show us all His ways at once.”

Not everything in this book is nice, however. There are some tough scenes involving racism, mining, abuse, and flooding, and these scenes, while tough to read, weren’t overly graphic.

I found The Giver of Stars to be a good, solid read with what you’d expect in heartwarming historical fiction: strong women and kind men, and also some awful men you love to hate and hope get their comeuppance! An enjoyable read that feels a bit too cloying and sweet at times, while also tackling some tough issues. There’s an air of “everything will turn out all right” throughout the read, and so this will appeal to those who enjoy cozier reads. I was entertained and like how Moyes writes. Not bogged down in detail, but just enough so you get a sense of time and place.

“There is always a way out of a situation. Might be ugly. Might leave you feeling like the earth has gone and shifted under your feet. But you are never trapped, Alice. You hear me? There is always a way around.”

There is some controversy regarding The Giver of Stars, as another book, The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson, which was released earlier, has some similarities. I haven’t read The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek, so I can’t specifically comment on the similarities, or to say which read I enjoyed more.

Also, The Giver of Stars happens to be the Reese Witherspoon Book Club choice for November, a fact I discovered after I checked the book out from the library! I think this would make a good book club book as it had compelling characters, wasn’t too graphic, and wasn’t bogged down with too many details.

Bottom Line: Heartwarming historical fiction!

LINKS ***the Amazon link is an affiliate link which means I receive a small commission if you click the link and make a purchase***

Amazon (Affiliate Link!)
Author Website

My Reviews of other books by Jojo Moyes: 
The Last Letter From Your Lover 
Me Before You
After You

Does this sound like a good read? Do you like cozier historical fiction or ones that are grittier? Have you read The Giver of Stars or The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek?



10 thoughts on “Book Review: The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes

  1. I tried listening to The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek and couldn’t stand it. Actually, this book sounds more like one I would enjoy. The writing in Troublesome seemed drawn out. Just this back and forth:

    “Women cain’t deliver books!”
    “But PAW! I love delivering books!”
    “But women cain’t do stuff outside the kitchen.”
    “But PAW! I can do both!”
    “It’s a sin, so women cain’t.”
    “But PAW!”

    Ugh. I did not enjoy it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I just read the Buzzfeed link you included, which had a link for an Electric Lit article that I then read. One thing I agree with the author of the Electric Lit article is that sometimes people come out with the same book and readers find that one is better or more interesting. I’m interested in the stories of the packhorse librarians. I’m not interested in Richardson’s novel the way she wrote it. I was in an MFA program with Betsy Cornwell, who wrote Mechanica. It was contracted with a publisher before Marissa Meyer’s Cinder was, but published after, so everyone accused Cornwell of plagiarism. Weird the is the books aren’t similar at all — they’re both Cinderella retellings, though. The Buzzfeed article is right: copyright infringement with books is so, so hard to challenge, so Richarson might as well take this gracefully.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks for mentioning the Electric Lit article! I actually hadn’t clicked through and read that one, and I thought what it had to say was interesting, especially how when the books have similarities, they want to market it as similar to so-and-so read in order to “take some of the burden of comparison off”.
        I haven’t heard of Mechanica before, but I checked it out and it looks interesting! I do see how people could say it was like Cinder in some ways (both Cinderella retellings, both with mechanically minded heroines), but they do sound like very, very different books. I can see how it would’ve been frustrating to have the book in the works sooner, but due to various issues being published later. And interesting that on Amazon, the sequel to Mechanica, Venturess, is mentioned as being “perfect for fans of The Lunar Chronicles”.
        I find the whole copyright issue quite fascinating! With The Giver of Stars and The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek, I will say that I really enjoy how Jojo Moyes writes. She’s just got a way of writing easy, likeable characters that you want to root for. I’m not familiar with the author of Book Woman, and with how you’ve described the book I’m not rushing out to pick that one up. I agree with you, that the packhorse librarians are a good story! I think the more the merrier when it comes to books and stories, and every author will bring something different to the story. I do find it interesting when multiple books (or movies, tv shows, etc) on the same topic pop up at the same time. It seems to happen fairly frequently!


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