Chevalier doesn’t disappoint, once again producing a meticulously-researched story with engaging characters.
Set in mid-nineteenth century America, The Last Runaway is an entertaining and interesting read with a varied cast of engaging characters. The story had some truly gripping moments when worrying about whether a runaway slave will get caught had me on the edge of my seat. The subjects of slavery, religion and women’s rights (among others) were handled sensitively and sat within the narrative – you never felt you were being “taught” something.
I finished the book and thought, “That was really good”. But then I dithered about whether to give it 3 or 4 stars out of 5. In the end I gave it 4 because I think I’ve become so used to Chevalier’s books being this good, I’ve started to become desensitized to the scale of her achievement. Being able to weave together fact and fiction to create an interesting story, and one in which people referring to each other using “thee” doesn’t seem at all odd, is more than impressive.
For those of you wanting to know more about the plot, here’s the blurb:
In New York Times bestselling author Tracy Chevalier’s newest historical saga, she introduces Honor Bright, a modest English Quaker who moves to Ohio in 1850, only to find herself alienated and alone in a strange land. Sick from the moment she leaves England, and fleeing personal disappointment, she is forced by family tragedy to rely on strangers in a harsh, unfamiliar landscape.
Nineteenth-century America is practical, precarious, and unsentimental, and scarred by the continuing injustice of slavery. In her new home Honor discovers that principles count for little, even within a religious community meant to be committed to human equality.
However, drawn into the clandestine activities of the Underground Railroad, a network helping runaway slaves escape to freedom, Honor befriends two surprising women who embody the remarkable power of defiance. Eventually she must decide if she too can act on what she believes in, whatever the personal costs.