Book – The Giver of Stars
Author- Jojo Moyes
Genre – Historical Fiction
The Giver of Stars is a beautifully written historical fiction novel set in the rugged and picturesque terrain of Kentucky’s Appalachian Mountains. The book is set in the 1930s and tells the story of five extraordinary women who become horseback librarians bringing books and literacy to the remote and impoverished people of the region.
The book is based on the 1930s Horseback Librarians Program in Kentucky, which was started by Eleanor Roosevelt. The idea behind the program was to bring books and thus educate and enrich the lives of people who lived in the mountains and had very little access to other people, especially during winter.
Moyes tells the story of five women, Margery, Alice, Izzy, Sophia and Beth, and how they come together amid all the turmoil of their lives for this noble purpose. Each woman is struggling and facing some challenge, so while it isn’t easy, their love for books makes them forget everything else and work towards this cause. They face opposition and ridicule, but they don’t give up.
And although the idea of providing people with books is an excellent initiative with Mrs Roosevelt’s support, many people from the community do not support it. They criticise it and want to put an end to it as they have their vested interests. They do not believe in raising awareness among women and the oppressed.
The two prominent themes that emerge from the book are the bond between the women and their love for books.
The book is a testimony to how women can surmount any obstacle when they get together, as they can relate to each other and understand each other.
The book also strengthens the belief that for any society to progress, its people must be aware and informed. And the most effective way of doing that is by giving them the opportunity to read and making reading material available to them. From spreading knowledge to entertaining to improving vocabulary, there is so much that books can do.
The book also touches on the themes of gender roles, misogyny, racism and societal norms, which makes it timely and timeless.
Though set in the 1930s, the reader can make out that several things that were true then are true even now as far as women are concerned. Yes, we have come a long way, but we still have far to go.
The book has certain predictable elements, like the character of Alices’s father-in-law, Mr Van Cleeve, and his actions and reactions. The book’s ending and some of the events preceding it are also pretty obvious, but that’s natural. Human beings do respond to certain situations in certain predictable ways, which is what Moyes is conveying. Just because
we can foresee what’s coming that does not take away the significance or impact of those happenings.
What I love about the book is the vivid and evocative writing which brings everything to life. You can visualise the rugged beauty of the Appalachians by the way Moyes describes them. The struggles of the women are brought to life by her, which makes the reader be with them. Once you start reading it, you get hooked as you can relate to it in so many different ways.
And though set during an era when such things were uncommon, the book contains a critical lesson. It shows that when you get a second chance in life, you should grab it. But for that, you need courage.
The book has some thought-provoking lines which we must always keep in mind-
‘ Life is complicated. Which is why finding a little joy where you can is important.’
‘ There was still beauty in the world, even if some days it took every bit of strength and obstinacy to find it.’
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Overall the book is a heartwarming, inspiring and captivating account that will appeal to readers of all ages and backgrounds. It is a testament to the human spirit, the power of books and the courage and resilience of women. I give it a 5-star rating.