Bestselling author Jojo Moyes’ new book The Giver of Stars is a mesmerising tale of female friendship, romance, and the wonder of books and reading, inspired by a remarkable true story.
Here’s a special letter from the author in which she gives insight into the inspiration behind her novel:
Fifteen months ago I read an article in the Smithsonian magazine about the Horseback Librarians of Kentucky — a group of young women employed by the US Government’s WPA scheme to go into the mountains after the Great Depression and take books and magazines to families who might not otherwise read a word.
Enduring harsh conditions and braving all kinds of dangers — snakes, dangerous mountains, moonshiners and criminals — they would saddle up and ride hundreds of miles a week to read to the sick, teach children, encourage the spread of facts in a time where religion and snake oil salesmen were able to battle for people’s minds. They often faced fierce resistance, both for their sex and from families who were suspicious of any reading materials other than The Bible, but worked together in a system that lasted seven years across several states, bringing everything from recipes to comic books biological texts to these remote families. Many of them became beloved to the people they served.
The photographic images of these young women were extraordinary, and their relevance to today hit me hard. I travelled to this remote area of East Kentucky on two separate research trips, rode the trails that the librarians would have ridden and stayed a week in a remote log cabin so that I could experience nature as they would have done (I got told off for moving a snake with a stick). I fell in love with the landscape and the storytelling people who inhabit it.
The Giver of Stars is the result — a story of five such women from very different backgrounds, brought together in a tiny community in the mountains of Kentucky. The story is fictional, but I have rested it on a skeleton of facts. I can honestly say I have never loved writing a book more, or been more inspired by my subject matter. I really hope everyone else enjoys it as much as I have.
Intrigued? The Giver of Stars is available now.