Jojo Moyes is one of my absolute favourite authors but I wasn’t so sure of this book just because I didn’t quite connect with the synopsis as much as I normally would with her other books probably because I’ve never given much attention historic fiction but I gave it a go and voila…another fantastic read. Also, so much more respect for Eleanor Roosevelt now that I’ve dug a little more info on the works she carried out as the First Lady using her position as a platform for her social activism.

No spoilers –
The story is set in the 1930s, the great depression era, in Kentucky. The focus is on a group of women who run a mobile library and delivers books on horsebacks to people in rural Kentucky. The book is based on factual events that occurred during that time as Works Progress Administration’s (WPA) Pack Horse Library initiative had been established as part of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal in 1935. Its goal was to bring books and reading material to one of the most desperately poor regions of Appalachia, where food, education and economic opportunity were hard to come by. Eleanor Roosevelt was a champion of this initiative of course and visited small WPA libraries as she traveled around the country.

Back to fiction… the story follows these women delivering books on horsebacks and changing peoples lives but they face a lot of controversy predominantly stirred up by men who have an issue with seeing women being anymore than just a housewife. Thankfully, there’s also good forward thinking men in this narrative and with Jojo always comes a good love story too.

The book really centres around two main characters. Firstly, you have Alice, originally from England, who makes an impulsive decision marry a wealthy American named Bennet and in doing so leaves her home and finds herself halfway across the world in hope for the freedom she always dreamed of. The dynamic between these two and Bennet’s dad is super frustrating! But it was really Margaret O’Hare, the other main character, that really made this book such an interesting read for me. Life seems to constantly beat her down but she carries on living with exuberant vitality and there’s no man that can bring her down. Jojo Moyes does a brilliant job with their character development and it really gives you a sense of satisfaction as you progress with the chapters knowing that these characters are transforming throughout the book.

I’d definitely recommend this book. I enjoyed how it was based on some factual historic events and it was fascinating to learn about these women who defied the norms back in those days and the characters in the book were excellent. Beware..your heart will melt for Sven and Fred. The only thing I didn’t like so much was that parts in the middle felt like it wasn’t necessary. Some drama definitely dragged a little too long.

Overall 4.6/5

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