While I’m still having difficulty concentrating on reading I’ve been trying audio books. I have to admit my experience of these in the past has been hit and miss because I either fall asleep or find it becomes like background noise and I don’t take anything in.
The Giver of Stars has just proved the exception. I loved the narrator and found I was hooked very quickly. It’s a story that drew me in and had me actually trying to find time to listen as I needed to know what happened next. Miraculously given the length of the book (nearly 14 hours) I achieved this in less than a week (which didn’t include bedtime)
The book tells the story of the women who set up a Pack Horse Library in the town of Baileyville, Kentucky. While the tale it tells may be fictional, it takes as its source the very real Pack Horse Library Project. The project formed part of the WPA (Works Progess Administration) programme. Championed by Eleanor Roosevelt it delivered books to remote regions in the Appalachian Mountains between 1935 and 1943. Women were very involved in the project which eventually had 30 different libraries serving 100,000 people. It is said that the project helped employ around 200 people and reached around 100,000 residents in rural Kentucky, one of the poorest areas of America.
The story which has the library as its focus has a much wider remit though, shining a light on the social, political and economic conditions of the day. In a post depression, pre war era the setting of rural Kentucky heightened the issues of a women’s place in society; the lack of health and safety, or employment rights legislation and the open hostility to black members of the community. While technically a neutral state during the Civil War it practiced segregation similar to the Jim Crow laws.
It’s story that that makes you realise how far we’ve (hopefully) come in a short space of time. I can’t recommend this book highly enough – I was completely transported to small town Baileyville and the wide open skies of the surrounding mountain trails. I became totally immersed in the blossoming relationships not only of the women themselves, but the families they met on their travels. I was equally as outraged by the total domination of the town by the local employer and the inequalities that blighted the lives of many because of it. But ultimately I was also proud of the stand taken by the women to persevere against all odds to build and maintain their library. Overall this is a completely engaging and redemptive tale of love, friendship and the power of books.
The greatest love story is the one you least expect . . .
Alice is stifled, bored, and misunderstood.
So when she meets wealthy and handsome American, Bennett Van Cleve, she is quickly swept off her feet.
Marrying him and moving to America seems like a great adventure – but life as a newlywed in stuffy Baileyville, Kentucky, is not at all what she hoped for.
Until, that is, she responds to a call for volunteers to start a travelling library, surprising herself by saying yes, before her husband can say no . . .
Led by feisty and rebellious Margery O’Hare, this unlikely group of women travel far and wide on their mission to bring books and reading to those that need it, and Alice finally finds the freedom, friendship and love that she’s been looking for.
But not everyone approves of what they are doing, especially her new father-in-law. And when the town turns against them, will their belief in each other and their work be enough?