October 12, 2019
Jojo Moyes’ new book bears “striking similarities” to a recently published novel
by Athena Bryan
Oh boy, we are excited today, because today is the rare day where we get to start a blog post with the line: HOT, HOT LITERARY SCANDAL.
They don’t come often, but when they do, boy are things fun. People say things like, “You plagiarized my novel,” and then the other person says stuff like, “I’ve never even heard of you or your novel.”
It’s like that scene from Mad Men when an underling tells off Don Draper for stifling his budding talent by saying “I feel bad for you,” and Don hits him back with, “I don’t think about you at all.”
Buzzfeed reports that Kim Michele Richardson has raised concerns that her book, The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek, bears several striking resemblances to Jojo Moyes’ just-published The Giver of Stars.
Both are historical novels about the Pack Horse Library project, a real-life group of women who delivered books to people in rural Kentucky in the 1930s.
Richardson’s book was published by Sourcebooks in May 2019. Moyes’ book, published by Pamela Dorman Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House, last week on October 8th.
Richardson brought the similarities to her publisher, but Sourcebooks elected not to file suit. Penguin Random House owns a 45% stake in Sourcebooks. Hard to say whether this has any relevance to the muted official response, or if this is just another sundry sign of just how consolidated the publishing industry is these days.
Richardson has continued to make her case public, if not formal. She pointed out all of the parallel events in detail to Buzzfeed (which include things like characters in both books requesting a copy of Women’s Home Companion to deal with a teething baby, and a wedding in each book that takes place in October between two characters who already share a 3-month-old child) and a plausible timeline by which Moyes would have had access to a pre-publication version of Richardson’s book before she finished her own.
Moyes, who is best known for her blockbuster, weepy Me Before You romance trilogy, has not made any comment on the matter.
Without any actual lawsuit or a response from Moyes, it’s hard to make this any juicier of a blog post.
Although, Moyes did at one point during the promotion of her book (not at all in relation to the topic at hand) say, “part of the reason why I wrote [The Giver Of Stars] so quickly was because I worried that someone else would write it before me.” Hmmmmm.
Also, the authors kind of look alike? Check that out in the Buzzfeed article. We are absolutely not going to spring for Getty Images in this post.
What conclusion do we come to here? Is it just the Zeitgeist, delivering the same moderately feel-good historical novel at the same time to two distinct minds? Are the parallels just the sort of clichés that any two wordsmiths would logically come to?
Is this a David and Goliath story, or a simpler lesson about the collective poverty of our imaginations?
I think I have another Mad Men reference to tie this one together.
**Don Draper voice** People don’t want original novels. They want novels that repackage history into digestible morality tales, so that they can go home at the end of the day and believe that they are part of a tradition that is moving forward, moving somewhere good.
**Sweeps back paper to reveal poster-board with READING LOLITA IN TEHRAN MEETS TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD written across it.
Athena Bryan is an editor at Melville House.