Friday, March 21, 2014

The Last Runaway by Tracy Chevalier

Hardback:  343 pages
Genre: Literary Fiction
Publisher:  Harper Collins 2013 

Source:  Tywyn Public Library, Wales.
First Sentence: She could not go back.

Favourite Quote: “I have a bed and enough to eat and kind people about me. God is still with me. For these things I am grateful and have no reason to complain” 
Review Quote: ‘Chevalier immerses herself in period and place. Her research, as always, is meticulous and lightly worn… an entertaining read’ THE GUARDIAN
My Opinion: 
 Absorbing to read but not because of the characters or the plot.

I have enjoyed all the novels by Tracy Chevalier that I have read previously finding them compelling but all in entirely different ways. 'The Last Runaway' is no exception, however in reading this novel I found that the descriptions of the countryside, quilting, hat-making, pioneer towns and how runaway slaves escape are more powerful than the storyline. Tracy Chevalier has certainly done her homework and the novel was absorbing to read but not because of the characters or the plot.

Young Quaker Honor leaves mid 19C England with her sister who is to marry in Ohio, USA, unfortunately her sister dies en-route and she finds herself completely alone in a foreign country, forced to rely on strangers. Circumstances force her to make a new home for herself, despite the fact that mostly she feels she is not welcome amongst the people who have taken her in. She does eventually settle and marry and thorough the only real friend she has made she gets involved with the 'Underground Railroad'  a network of people that helped runaway slaves who were trying to find freedom in North America or Canada. This was illegal and despite Quakers being anti-slavery they shied away from involvement due to the heavy fines if caught. The Quaker family she had married into were far more concerned about quilts and appearances than these poor people! Honor had a hard life surviving in this new world but survive she did. 

In conclusion it was an interesting read in that I learnt about life in 19C Ohio, Quakers, Quilting and Slavery in an easy and quick read. Should appeal to anyone interested in any of the aforementioned subjects and those already fans of Tracy Chevalier.

Of the Tracy Chevalier novels that I have read previously The Virgin Blue and Falling Angels are the only ones I have published a review on-line for, the links will take you to my Bookcrossing entries.

                                         Tracy Chevalier speaking on BBC Breakfast about The Last Runaway

Author Profile

Tracy Chevalier was born on 19 October 1962 in Washington, DC. the youngest of three children.  She describes herself as a 'nerdy' child that spent a lot of time lying on her bed reading. Favourite authors back then were Laura Ingalls Wilder, Madeleine L’Engle, Zilpha Keatley Snyder, Joan Aiken, Susan Cooper, Lloyd Alexander and L.M. Montgomery.

She graduated from Oberlin College, Ohio, USA in 1984 with a BA in English and in 1994 an MA in Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia, Norwich, England. 
Having lived in the UK since 1984, she now has dual citizenship, an English husband and son.

Before becoming a full time writer Tracy worked as a reference book editor, working on encyclopaedias about writers. Having talked a lot about becoming a writer as a child, she started writing short stories in her twenties, then began first novel, The Virgin Blue, during her MA year. Since writing  Girl With a Pearl Earring  in 1998, she became a full-time writer, and has since divided her time between  motherhood and writing.

Whilst researching for the Author Profile for Tracy Chevalier I came across a very interesting post on her website, written just this month. For her research for The Last Runaway she was drawn into the world of quilting which has surprisingly since led her to visit a prison cell. She is curating a quilt/art show for Danson House, a Georgian Mansion outside of London, which opens in April 2014. It opens next month. One of the pieces for the exhibition is a quilt Ishe commissioned from the UK charity Fine Cell Work, who teach prisoners how to sew, embroider, and do needlepoint. If you are interested in learning more please do visit the link to Tracy's website.  Quilting Exhibition.

The biographical information and photo used in this post are with thanks to the following websites, where you can also find more information about the author and her writing. 

Goodreads Author Profile - Tracy Chevalier  Amazon Author Profile    Twitter - Tracy Chevalier

Tracy Chevalier - Wikipedia    YouTube - The Last Runaway   Facebook Page - Tracy Chevalier

Sharing with Literary Friday


  1. I have read a number of Tracy Chevalier books. Some I love, some I don't. I will be adding this one to my list of must reads even if the descriptions outweigh the story line. Every now and then you just need to read a beautiful book. Great Friday share


    1. I have always found Tracy Chevalier's novels a compelling read and this one was no exception. Delighted you are adding the title to your TBR list, do let me know your thoughts once read.

  2. I appreciated all the author's research, too, and felt like I learned quite a bit. The audio version was very well done... the narrator's voice was pitch perfect for Honor and her Quaker heritage.

    1. For me one of the pleasures of reading is the things I learn, agree with you about this one. It sounds as if it was a good choice for audio.

  3. She's a researching fiend, but I'm sorry her characters and world-building were less compelling than the historical background. It sounds like it's worth picking up, though (I have found a few authors who do that, sometimes...and the history lesson is worth it!). Thanks for sharing!

    1. History lesson makes it well worthwhile picking this one up, it does not matter that I found the story to be secondary.

  4. This might be a good book club read and it sounds like there is much to discuss.

    1. I think this title is definitely a good choice for Book Clubs Ann.

  5. I have this in my TBR pile Lindy and had forgotten about it-thanks for the reminder and the recommendation! I like Girl with a Pearl Earring, but my favourite novel of hers is The Lady and the Unicorn-about a series of tapestries, set during medieval times.

    1. Thanks for your recommendation for The Lady and the Unicorn, one of hers I have not read yet,

  6. I have read all of Tracy Chevalier's novels but this one, so it's only a matter of time before I read it She always does a great job researching her topics, but I'm disappointed that the story wasn't as strong as some of her other novels.

    Super review, and I appreciate your posting the video, too. Thanks for linking-up to Literary Friday!


    1. As you are obviously a fan having read all her other novels, I will be very interested to hear what you make of this one.


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