5 “simply gorgeous” stars
“Two women sat in a tiny cabin on the side of a vast mountain as the sky slowly darkened, and inside the lamps sent out slivers of gold light through the gaps in the wide oak planks. One read, her voice quiet and precise, and the other sat, her stockinged feet tucked up under her on the chair, her head resting against her open palm, lost in her thoughts.”
Jojo Moyes ‘s prose is simply breathtaking!
“These heroic women refuse to be cowed by men or by convention” is the best way to translate this phenomenal book.
This is a story of courage, hope, justice, betrayals, loss and love. Above all else it’s a story of friendship.
Alice comes from a wealthy family in England. When she marries Bennett and arrives in rural Kentucky, lost in the mountains, she stands out like a sore thumb. Her accent, her clothes, everything point at stranger in this small community. Instead of finding support in her father in law and husband she soon feels unimportant.
When Mrs Brady asks for women to work as traveling librarians Alice offers to help. She will soon join Margery, an unconventional and free-spirited woman and three other women. Beth is from a family of men only, swears and smokes secretly. Izzy is Mrs Brady’s daughter, shy and wearing a leg brace.
Sophie, a woman of color will join their team and work at night patching and mending books, organizing and labelling.
All different but all dedicated to their job.
United in their task they will bond and form a deep friendship, more sisters than friends.
This is a study in characters.
Every character, main or side is built to perfection. You have the best and the worst of human nature. Hostile mountaineers slowly open up to these dedicated librarians. When British Alice will be welcomed by a man holding a rifle she’ll swallow her fear and will come back every week to bring books to the man’s kids, creating a bond with this widow’s family. So far from England she will soon fall in love with the wild beauty of the mountains and these rugged people.
The library will become her escape, her safe haven when her married life is so disappointing. Courageous these women ride in the blistering sun or freezing weather, four days a week they bring books even in the most remote places. Slowly people change. From recipes to comics, from sexual advices to romance stories books operate their magic.
“The Packhorse Library had become, in the months of its existence, a symbol of many things, and a focus for others, some controversial and some that would provoke unease in certain people however long it stayed around. But for one freezing damp evening in March, it became a tiny, glowing refuge.”
I was deeply moved by the individual stories: the widow struggling to raise his daughters; the young couple whose husband is declining every day and found solace in the stories Alice took the time to read; Izzy, blooming once she had a purpose, becoming a strong vibrant woman, not simply a cripple. Alice and her tragic marriage, under her father in law’s rule. Margery traumatized by her childhood, swearing never to marry yet slowly trusting honorable Sven with her heart. Discreet, lonely and good at heart Fred, always helping and protecting the librarians. This is the story of stories. A portrait of wild and rural Kentucky before 1940. Its mines and the fights with the Unions when wealthy mine owners exploited people with no care for their safety or well-being. Its beautiful mountains and proud inhabitants.
But not everyone is happy to see people thinking, having “ideas” and soon enough the powerful and wealthy will try all they can to close the library. Money and power rule the world. The police can be bought. In conservationist Kentucky at that time women were meant to stay at home and raise kids. Not have grand ideas, take control of their sexuality nor mix with people of color!
Some men can’t stand women resisting them. Threats and blackmail are used to stop this outrageous project.
You have abusive men, you have “meek “ men but you also have good men like Sven and Fred.
“They said I should teach her a lesson. I never got it, not even in the first flush of anger, when I thought she had pretty much stomped all over my heart. You beat a horse and you can break it all right. You can make it submit. But it’ll never forget. And it sure won’t care for you. So if I wouldn’t do it to a horse, I could never work out why I should do it to a human.”
I was immersed in that story, so in love with it that I read from dawn to dusk, throat closing and eyes filled with tears many times, in sadness and in joy. This book is magic. This book is powerful. This book is inspiring.
Have you read it? Or does it remind you of another book that I should absolutely read?
Thanks for reading!