Friday, 20 March 2015

The Last Runaway by Tracy Chevalier

Honor Bright is a sheltered Quaker who has rarely ventured out of 1850s Dorset when she impulsively emigrates to America. Opposed to the slavery that defines and divides the country, she finds her principles tested to the limit when a runaway slave appears at the farm of her new family.

In this tough, unsentimental place, where whisky bottles sit alongside quilts, Honor befriends two spirited women who will teach her how to turn ideas into actions.

Tracy Chevalier has been one of my favourite authors for years. I initially read Girl With a Pearl Earring when it was first published in 1999 and with one or two exceptions I have read my way through her entire canon.

All of her books are set within an historical context and it certainly appears that Ms Chevalier does her research thoroughly. This book is set in America during the middle of the 19th century and we follow Honor’s journey from a quiet town in Dorset to Ohio; a vast enterprise for the time.

Honor Bright was a delightful character to read about and I learned much about the lives of Quakers at the time. I felt real empathy for Honor as she tried to make a way for herself in this strange land amongst unfamiliar people.

Ms Chevalier also has the ability to bring the minor characters to life. Belle, the milliner, who first befriends Honor is a wonderful character who is full of life and colour and which is echoed in the hats that she makes.

As a needle woman myself I adored all the descriptions of quilting and millinery and this really enhanced the story for me and added a completely different dimension to the book.

However, the main theme of this excellent story is slavery and the equality of all people and this was handled sensitively whilst not shying away from the harsh realities faced by slaves and those who wished to help them towards freedom and eventual emancipation.

Overall, a good read and I think anyone who enjoys historical fiction will like it.

ISBN:  978-0007350353

Publisher: Harper

Price (based on today’s price at £4.98

About the Author:

Tracy Chevalier was born in Washington, DC but has lived in England all her adult life and now has dual citizenship. She has a BA in English from Oberlin College, Ohio, and an MA in creative writing from the University of East Anglia, Norwich, England. She lives in London with her English husband and son. Before turning to writing full-time she was a reference book editor for several years. She has written 7 novels. Her second novel, Girl with a Pearl Earring, won the Barnes and Noble Discover Award, sold 4 million copies worldwide, and was made into a film starring Colin Firth and Scarlett Johansson.

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