A page-turner. Not my usual thing: my daughter (who is a big fan of Jojo Moyes) recommended it, as she knows I love historical novels. And Libraries. And while this hasn't converted me to Jojo Moyes fandom, I was impressed with its "readability."
I understand that there's controversy about this novel, and just how ... original it is, both in subject matter and on deeper levels. (I think that's the diplomatic way of putting it ...) I honestly don't know enough about the issues to feel that I'm able to comment, so my review is entirely on what I read, and my impressions of it ...
Moyes can certainly weave a story, and create engaging characters. Her main protagonist is a true "fish out of water" -- an upper middle class English girl, whose boredom with her stodgy judgemental family and social life has led her to a disastrous, whirlwind marriage, and a new life with her husband's stodgy, judgemental family, in their stodgy, judgemental Kentucky town. She's a good guide for us, as modern readers, to help us see and understand the strict social strata of the local people, and the limited opportunities for friendship and stimulation that are on offer -- until the arrival of a Government initiative to deliver library books to rural families, by horseback.
As a novel, I felt that Moyes can definitely write, but didn't have the "chops" to make more of the interesting subject matter, and serious social questions she had taken on. Some of the drama (the over-hasty marriage, a murder trial, a flood caused by sloppy practices at a local mine) were cleared up too neatly, to my mind. Some of the efforts to build up minor characters into suitable companions for the two female leads felt like padding, and I was very tempted to skim ... As I said, this isn't really my kind of thing, and I just couldn't find in it myself to care if a rather silly English girl sorted out her love life.
I really enjoyed this book. I've seen a lot of comparison between it and the Bookwoman of Troublesome Creek. They both are about the Pack Horse Librarians set up by Eleanor Roosevelt - all of which were women. A fascinating topic. This book follows the lives of four very diverse women who come together to forge a strong bond and friendship and face adverse elements, discrimination, and strong bias. Strongly recommend for those who enjoy historical fiction!