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Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Review: The Last Runaway

Author: Tracy Chevalier

Release date: UK Paperback 29th August 2013
Genre: Historical Fiction
Target audience: Adult
Publisher: HarperCollins

The Last Runaway is a journey into the new world - a journey from 1850s England to America across the ocean. It’s about principles and freedom to act on those principles. This historical novel swept me away and I found myself picking it up at every opportunity. It was a pleasure to read.

When Honor’s sister Grace decides to emigrate to America to marry, Honor thinks that this is her chance for a new life too. Having been recently jilted and her betrothed expelled from the Quaker community, she feels embarrassed and self-conscious in her small community.

Honor and Grace take the long journey by boat to America but when they arrive their dream is far from coming true. Grace soon takes ill and Honor is left to make a new life for herself alone. She travels many miles across America to reach Ohio and there, she must find a way to begin again.
Honor’s story was a touching and honest. She is constantly comparing life in America to her home back in England. Everything from the food to the way people speak. She has to learn to accept many differences and find a sense of belonging in this new frontier.

Not only was this story well told and well plotted. It was educational too. I felt I learnt a lot about Quakers. I didn’t really know anything about the religion before I read this book. I also learnt much about how the Quakers opposed slavery in the 1850s. I liked how the author explored the ways the different characters responded to the issue. Honor wants to help the slaves escape America and find their freedom in Canada. Other characters do the same. But her Quaker husband and his family are not so ready to help despite it being part of their beliefs that all men are equal in the eyes of God.

I can’t write this review without mentioning the patchwork quilts which Honor is so talented at making. I loved all the references to sewing and her particular skills. The way she collected little scraps of cloth from garments that had a meaning to her was really touching.

I read this book for our parent book group at school and I’m so glad I did. I would never have picked it up otherwise and I really enjoyed everything about it: the tone, the description, the exploration of beliefs and principles. The Last Runaway was an accessible, moving and enjoyable read.

Source: Borrowed from the public library

1 comment:

Sue Hyams said...

I loved this book. It's written in such a vivid and accessible way so that the history - and her books are always so well researched - blends perfectly with the story.