Preview Reviews: The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes

Preview Reviews: The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes

We recently held a Preview for the new Jojo Moyes novel, The Giver of Stars. Inspired by a remarkable true story, it is the unforgettable journey of five extraordinary women living in extraordinary and perilous times. It is a love letter to the power of books and literature and their ability to bring us together and deliver the truth, as well as a tribute to female friendship.

Read what our Previews readers thought:

This book is just as magical as you’d expect from JoJo Moyes. The beautifully drawn characters will stay with you for days afterwards and you’ll empathise with each of the female characters. This book proves yet again what a masterful storyteller JoJo is. – Kirsten, WA, 4 stars

Libraries on horseback ….. who would of thought, but what an awesome topic to research for a historical fiction book. The Giver of Stars is Jojo Moyers new book based on a true story about The Horseback Librarians of Kentucky that was started by Eleanor Roosevelt. The idea was to bring books and help educate and enrich the lives of people who lived in the hills in the country side of Kentucky. The story is about Alice who moves to America from England, after being recently married to Bennett Van Cleve. Feeling lonely and isolated she becomes a librarian on horseback under the guidance of Margery O’Hare. As you turn the pages, three other ladies join the group, Beth, Izzy and Sonia. The back stories of these characters and others we met along the way kept me reading for more. And what hardships did these people go through. But also the backlash these women received for encouraging reading. I love learning more about people and what they had to endure in a time before I was born. It was great to read a story where some courageous women supported each other and had a positive relationship towards each other. Descriptions of the mountains and landscapes were very realistic and I actually thought I was there. As a lover of books and a person that encourages everyone to read I loved the ideas of librarians on horseback not only delivering books but also reading them to people. Everyone in the hills looked forward to these visits especially the children. I must say, this is my first Jojo Moyes book and am interested in reading her other books. Thankyou Jojo for an adventure through the mountain side that I really enjoyed. – Maria, SA, 5 stars

The Giver of Stars follows the adventures of a group of women who embark on creating a horseback mobile library in Kentucky. Each of the horseback librarians is an outcast in their own way – the woman from a rough family, the foreigner, the polio-affected and the woman of colour. But the library routes bring them together in this story of being different, acceptance and finding a purpose. This book wasn’t really what I expected from Jojo Moyes, stepping into historical fiction. It was a “nice” read – one that was well-written, with a steady pace and descriptive language but without being heavy or feeling like something to ploughing through. The characters could be viewed simplistically and taken at face value, or each character could be examined in more depth in the context of racial, cultural or physical differences, without either approach causing the reader to miss out on enjoying the story. There was also a clear love for books that shone through, providing a meta theme about the benefits of reading – for education, for pleasure, for religion and for escape. Overall, an enjoyable read that could find broad appeal. – Laura, NSW, 3 stars

The Giver of Stars is a beautifully written, compelling story about the Horseback Librarians of Kentucky. The narrative is primarily told through the perspectives of Alice and Margery, with a cast of amazing supporting characters interwoven throughout the story. The Horseback Library was established to improve literacy in the community, particularly amongst families living in remote locations. Whilst undertaking their valuable work, the librarians faced extraordinary challenges, most critically, in the form of extreme opposition from influential community leaders. I was particularly drawn to the theme of privilege portrayed in the book. The Horseback Library not only improved literacy but also promoted female empowerment. This was extremely threatening to the powerful within the community because it diminished their potential to exploit the powerless. Although set almost 100 years ago, situations occurring in the book are disturbingly similar to those playing out today. I also really appreciated the way female friendships were portrayed, as a vital source of support and strength. Finally, I love the way in which The Giver of Stars celebrates books: like Margery, the capacity for books to provide a refuge from the harsh realities of life is one of the reasons many of us love to read. – Amanda, QLD, 5 stars

The Giver of Stars is a celebration of strong females and their friendships, perseverance, love, sacrifices and hope. Based on historical fact, this is a heartwarming, character-driven and emotional tale about the inspiring Pack Horse Librarians in rural Kentucky in the mid 1930s. I found The Giver of Stars to be a slowburner of a novel, particularly in the beginning, but the pace picks up mid-way and I became more engaged with the characters and remained hooked to the very end. True highlights were the depiction of the relationships between the women, their strength and resilience in the face of adversity. Overall I enjoyed The Giver of Stars and I’m sure Jojo Moyes fan will not be disappointed. – Maridel, NSW, 4 stars

A beautifully written historical novel combining both real life events and strong female characters. Having read Jojo Moyes Me Before You trilogy, I was very interested to read her recent novel, which is set in Kentucky during the depression era. The novel centres around The Pack Horse Library Project, which was a program that did actually exist. The Park Horse Librarians delivered books to remote regions in the Appalachian Mountains between 1935 and 1943. The novel started a little slowly for me, but as we get to know the characters, and we are drawn in to their journey from strangers to friends, I was soon engrossed.  Learning more about the Pack Horse Librarian Project throughput this novel was fascinating. Moyes descriptions of the landscapes was delightful, and I felt truly transported.  This novel is actually my favourite Moyes novel, capturing as it does the power of what females can achieve working together in the face of adversity, all within a fascinating historical setting. – Janelle, VIC, 5 stars

The historical aspect was what drew me to this and of course, bad ass women getting the job done whilst all the males are seething that their hierarchy is slowly collapsing because women and books…and women trekking and horseback riding through mountains and mines to get books (and humanity) to those who would otherwise go without. Loved the descriptive writing of the landscape and the era, loved all the main characters with their interesting stories. – Hanadi, NSW, 3 stars

In a remote mountain town in Kentucky blood fueds are long held and money is power. Six women attempt to bring knowledge through books to the secluded mountain homes and thus the Baileyville Packhorse librarians are formed. This unlikely group of women soon become firm friends supporting each other through hard times. But they soon realise a woman has to play by the rules or be squashed. This is my first JoJo Moyes book and I found the story a little slow at the start and it took a while to get any connection to the characters. Moyes has included themes of violence to women, lack of literacy skills in remote areas, the long and dangerous hours miners have to endure and how the powerful mine owners championed profit over safety. I loved how the women supported each other and how the whole town, even though divided at times, banded together during the flood to help each other out. Moyes has written a compelling tale of a town living under the burden of a money hungry employer and how a group of women who were not scared to go against societal expectations to make the town a better place for everyone. – Veronica, NSW, 4 stars

What a delightful book! As a Jojo Moyes “novice”, I wasn’t sure what to expect – the book captured me right from the start and I found it very hard to put down. “The Giver of Stars” is a beautifully written book full of richly developed fictional characters who are embedded in historical facts, around the travelling libraries started by Eleanor Roosevelt in the remote regions of America in the 1930s, when education and the availability of books was rare. We meet Alice and Marge, and follow them through the challenges that are presented to them on a daily basis, both in their personal lives and in the day to day running of the travelling library. We see the joy that these women, along with their associates, bring to numerous lives as they travel near and far to ensure that the privilege of reading a book is shared. What we accept as something so simple today, to be able to read a book, was truly a gift less than 100 years ago, something we take for granted now, back then brought such joy and meaning to so many. “The Giver of Stars” gives food for thought, while itself giving joy to the reader. A masterpiece. – Jane, NSW, 5 stars

A very interesting historical novel with an insight into the trials and tribulations that women had to face in that era, and how together they overcame their differences and how friendship is the strongest bond. I think it is a book that re-reading it for a second time will be much more enjoyable. If it is made into a movie you should definitely read the book first. – Sandra, NSW, 3 stars

Although a change of pace for Jojo Moyes, this novel is a brilliant accountnof depression era USA and the power of books to teach, inspire and lift morale. The story features strong women who inspire. An absolutely beautiful book. – Dianne, SA, 5 stars

I couldn’t have loved this book anymore! It was a powerful story told through the eyes of strong female characters. A must read! – Cassandra, NSW, 5 stars

Another fabulous read by Jojo Moyes – historical fiction with an air of romance and mystery. The characters are a joy to get to know and fall in love with. A group of ladies in a challenging era finding their place in society. – Amanda, QLD, 4 stars

This book is an historical fiction novel which differs from Jojo Moyes’ other contemporary women’s novels and it is well worth the read. The novel is based on true events during the US Depression in the 1930’s and 1940’s in Kentucky and the Appalachian Mountains where women go into the mountains on horses to take books to families who might not otherwise get a chance to read. Jojo Moyes has impeccably researched the era, location and the telling of the Horseback Librarians of Kentucky. There are a number of important themes which the characters must overcome such as racism, misogyny and exploitation. I loved the setting of the book, the research and getting to know the two main characters, the English bride Alice and the troublemaker Margery. The novel is such a great read and reinforces the importance of books in people’s lives. – Brenda, NSW, 5 stars

I really enjoyed this book from Jojo. It is a bit different to previous works but absolutely a great read. I loved the characters, especially Alice and the book had me hooked from the first chapter. – Jenni, VIC, 5 stars

I loved this book. Possibly my favourite Jojo Moyes book. I loved the fact that the story was loosely based around a library that existed in Kentucky. The characters were all strong women in a time where women were suppressed and had no real say in anything. Loved it! – Kay, QLD, 5 stars

“The Giver of Stars” brings you straight into action with a gripping beginning that is evocative of a Depression era far from our modern comforts and experience. It is an engaging narrative of how Alice leaves her staid English life that has never suited her to find friends amongst people in the Kentucky mountains engaged in work she comes to love. As a fan of historical fiction and a librarian, I found particularly moving how these determined women of Horseback Librarians of Kentucky brought the power of books and reading to families without access to them. As a counterpoint, I found fascinating the insight into the early history of libraries in the US through the character of Sophia, the “coloured” librarian. The book delivers well-rounded complex characters in a story that is profoundly satisfying – enjoy! – Susannah, VIC, 5 stars

Jo Jo Moyes latest novel, The Giver of Stars may be set in 1937 but it has a contemporary feel and deals with issues that are still relevant. It is a beautiful, well researched work of fiction based on facts about the Horseback Librarians of Kentucky. At its core it is a story of five young women of disparate backgrounds and beliefs who work together to deliver reading materials and more to the mountain dwelling hillbillies of their small community. I found it to be an interesting and enthralling story that contained elements of romance, mystery, suspense, sadness and joy. The universal themes related to education, domestic violence and the empowerment of women and children are relevant to the society of today. The power of female friendship takes The Giver of Stars from being sad and depressing to hopeful and uplifting. – Janelle, NSW, 5 stars

I fell in love with The Giver of Stars from the first page. Set in Kentucky in the 1930s, five women volunteer for the horseback library scheme, started by Eleanor Roosevelt, taking books to isolated families in the Appalachians. Each woman has her own story, and own reasons, for taking on the responsibility of bringing joy to people through books. As the book enfolds, we learn more about the women, their loves and relationships and the bigotry of many neighbours who don’t believe that women should read, or indeed, ride on their own. I was so engaged with Margery and Sven, Alice and Fred that it actually came as a shock when the book ended. I wanted more!! A very big 5 stars from me. – Daniella, QLD, 5 stars

A beautiful and compelling storyline that kept me drawn in from begining to end. The characters felt so very real to me they felt like treasured friends. A very special read that had some funny moments, moments of true heartbreak and shows what happens when we aim for the stars! – Catherine, NSW, 4 stars


‘The Giver of Stars’ is a brilliant story that highlights the powerless life of women and people of colour in the Appalachian Mountains in the USA when mining, hunting and moonshine reigned supreme. Although it is grim at times in reflecting difficult lives – overall the book is positive. It reflects some women who don’t accept the status quo and fight it in different ways and tells the wonderful story of the Horseback Librarians of Kentucky who ran a service providing books to the mainly poor people in remote areas from 1936 to 1943. Many of these people were illiterate or semi-literate. Overtime these people progressed from illiteracy to being able to understand that they were being taken advantage of by wealthy mine owners. The Giver of Stars is an interesting and easy read. I was fascinated with the story which is rich in detail both small (particularly the skunk encounter) and large. I was taken with the characters and was there in the courtroom hoping for the right verdict. I highly recommend this book. – Sandra, ACT, 5 stars

Moyes is a writer with a strong eye for character and a plot which catches at the reader’s heart. Here she has found a small nugget of history which is (I think) not widely known; like Moyes, I found it immediately fascinating. The characters in the novel are fictional, but the Horseback Librarians were real. Moyes brings the area to life in a way that reminded me of Sharyn McCrumb’s Appalachian novels. The sense of time and place is strong, and effortlessly conveyed without undue exposition. Moyes tells a strong story. We quickly care about Alice and her colleagues. They may accept behaviour most women today wouldn’t, but they have a strong sense of their own worth and stand up for it. They are doing valuable work, and we celebrate their gradual successes with them and feel their satisfaction as their achievements become visible. And I, at least, wanted to clonk the men who tried to pull them down. Readers will find themselves emotionally involved with the characters, and desperately wanting to see them triumph. This is engaging and interesting, an easy read that nevertheless digs quite deep into emotions and characters. – Lorraine, ACT, 4 stars

I purposely kept myself in the dark before reading this book, I like having no expectations when reading an author I’ve not read before. So I had no idea what the book was about, and the title certainly doesn’t give any clues. But I found myself gripped from the first page and thoroughly enjoyed both the experience of reading this and the story and characters I became immersed in. This book has everything; births, deaths and marriages, natural and man-made disasters, racism, love, sex and friendship, sexism, domestic violence and even incest, plus a courtroom drama. All seen through the eyes of dimensioned characters who grow through their experiences. It is a thoroughly enjoyable journey and I’d encourage anyone to go along for the ride. I will now go and hunt down some more of Jojo Moyes’ work. – Em, NSW, 5 stars

I absolutely loved The Giver of Stars by JoJo Moyes. Fell I love with Alice and wanted to know how her story would end. Did want to stop reading this til it ending. Love that’s it’s based on WPA’s horseback Library. Margery and Sven’s story is truly bliss. Just adored this book. – Elizabeth, NSW, 5 stars

Jojo Moyes never disappoints!!!! However her new book “The Giver of Stars” surpasses all expectations!!! The author was inspired when she read about the Horseback Libraries of Kentucky in the 1930s. The libraries were funded by the US Government and the women employed went into the remote and isolated mountains on horseback to take books and magazines to those who otherwise had no access to reading material. “The Giver of Stars” is fiction based on these brave, strong, fearless women. As a lover of hearing about strong women and a former teacher of reading, this story has everything that appeals to me. It revolves around 5 diverse women who face incredible hardships, prejudice, severe weather conditions and harsh mountain terrain. They bond together as a team throughout their difficulties, determined to keep the library functioning. The characters were totally believable and I particularly warmed to these strong women. Jojo’s involved descriptions and clever writing took the reader on a journey with the characters. The book was a page turner. I couldn’t put it down but I also didn’t want it to end. Thank you so much Better Reading for sending me this book. I love it and I cant wait to read it again. – Glenis, NSW, 5 stars

Whilst I generally enjoyed The Giver of Stars, and thought the topic worth exploring, I found some areas somewhat lacking in depth. The power of reading is one of the major themes of this novel, so I wished more had been written on which books were loaned to which families, and the effect those books may have had on their readers. I also found the trial somewhat improbable and the verdict too easily attained. However, the Appalachian Mountains are beautifully rendered, and the characters are interesting and well-drawn – all except Bennett [Alice’s husband] who, from what little we know of his behaviour, would seem an interesting, complex character. Unfortunately, we learn nothing as to why he behaves the way he does, which seemed a missed opportunity. In spite of this, I still found The Giver of Stars to be a pleasant, enjoyable read. – Dominique, SA, 3 stars

I’ve read and enjoyed several of Jojo Moyes’ previous books. ‘The Giver of Stars’ is a radical departure from the styles I’d associated her with – and it’s wonderful. Moyes explains the inspiration for the book at the beginning and it resonated with me – introducing others to the joy of books. As a former teacher librarian, that was my mission too – but I wasn’t in the Appalachian region of Kentucky in the 1930s. Her depictions of the poverty, racism and sexism are jaw dropping and the feats of the women who went into the mountains on horseback to distribute reading material are amazing. Moyes’ research is evident, woven into a compelling and engaging story based on fact. Alice, Margery, the awful Mr Van Cleve and his weak son, Bennett, are memorable, as are the minor characters. The challenges faced by the women are daunting and there’s quite a bit of humour as they deal with them. Totally different to what I was expecting and highly recommended. – Penny, VIC, 5 stars

There are really no words except yes yes yes, read it, read it, read it. The Giver of Stars grabbed me from the Author’s Note at the beginning and did not let me go even after I read the last page. This is a book that will stay with you long after you have finished reading it. If you have read and enjoyed anything by Nicole Alexander or have been haunted by Delia Owen’s Where The Crawdads Sing, this book is for you. Moyes has provided a story of female empowerment stemming from friendships formed when a group of women are thrown together in unusual circumstances. She has beautifully illustrated how friendship is not governed by wealth, class, race or religion and the wonderful ways women can change the world, their community and society around them when they feel loved and supported by others. I will definitely be recommending this book to everyone I know and even those I don’t. – Mel, NSW, 5 stars

Eleanor Roosevelt established a travelling library programme in the USA in the mid 1930s in an effort to bring books to those in rural, isolated areas who might not otherwise get an opportunity to discover the joy of reading. This novel tells the story of Englishwoman Alice Wright who seizes the opportunity presented by marriage to an American to leave her stifling homelife and who becomes a travelling librarian in Kentucky as an escape when she realises that she has merely swapped one oppressive regime for another. The Baileyville Packhorse Library is largely run by a feisty, independent woman called Margery O’Hare and she and Alice plus three other women battle harsh weather and terrain to deliver the books and magazines. But the highly conservative local community is suspicious of them and it takes skill and determination to win folks over. Alice’s father-in-law is not to be won over though, and he uses every means possible to try to destroy, not only the library, but the women themselves. I thoroughly enjoyed The Giver of Stars kindly sent to me by Better Reading and thus, in turn, I become the giver of five out of five stars for an excellent read! – Pamela, VIC, 5 stars

Absolutely Brilliant, A horseback library is set up in the back blocks of Kentucky in the 1930’s by an incredible group of five strong willed females, the female characters in this book are amazing tough kind funny and loyal, Jojo Moyes has certainly written a best seller of a book – Deborah, NSW, 5 stars



Publisher details

The Giver of Stars
Jojo Moyes
01 October, 2019


The brand-new standalone novel from the Number One bestselling author of Me Before You, After You and Still Me.Inspired by a remarkable true story, the unforgettable journey of five extraordinary women living in extraordinary and perilous times. Alice Wright has travelled halfway across the world to escape her stifling life in England. Handsome American businessman Bennett Van Cleve represents a fresh start. But she soon realises that swapping the twitching curtains of suburbia for newlywed life in the wild mountains of Kentucky isn't the answer to her prayers. But maybe meeting Margery O'Hara is. The heart and backbone of the small community of Salt Lick, a woman who isn't afraid of anything or anyone, Margery is on a mission.Enlisting Alice, along with three other women, all from very different backgrounds, to join her, the band of unlikely sisters battle the elements and unforgiving terrain - as well as brave all manner of dangers and social disapproval - to ride hundreds of miles a week to deliver books to isolated families. Transforming the lives of so many is all the impetus they need to take such risks.And for Alice, her new job and blossoming friendships become an unexpected lifeline, providing her with the courage she needs to make some tough decisions about her marriage. Then a body is found in the mountains, rocking the close-knit community and tearing the women apart as one of them becomes the prime suspect. Can they pull together to overcome their greatest challenge yet?A love letter to the power of books and literature and their ability to bring us together and deliver the truth, as well as a tribute to female friendship, The Giver of Stars is the book that Jojo Moyes was born to write.
Jojo Moyes
About the author

Jojo Moyes

Jojo Moyes was born in 1969 and grew up in London. After a varied career including stints as a minicab controller, typer of braille statements for blind people for NatWest, and brochure writer for Club 18-30, she did a degree at Royal Holloway and Bedford New College, London University. In 1992, she won a bursary financed by The Independent newspaper to attend the postgraduate newspaper journalism course at City University.Jojo worked as a journalist for ten years, including a year at South China Morning Post in Hong Kong, and nine at The Independent where she worked variously as News Reporter, Assistant News Editor and Arts and Media Correspondent.Jojo has been a full time novelist since 2002, when her first book, Sheltering Rain was published. Since then she has written a further eleven novels, all of which have been widely critically acclaimed.Jojo has won the Romantic Novelist’s Award twice, and Me Before You has been nominated for Book of the Year at the UK Galaxy Book Awards. Me Before You has since gone on to sell over 3 million copies worldwide.Jojo lives (and writes!) on a farm in Essex, England with her husband, journalist Charles Arthur, and their three children.

Books by Jojo Moyes


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