Friday, February 22, 2013

The Last Runaway

I had so liked Girl with a Pearl Earring, both the book and the movie, that I have read most of Tracy Chevalier's other books. They are diverse!

Most recently I read The Last Runaway  and it did not disappoint. Oddly, the book about a young immigrant woman was built around two Q-motifs that have been important in my own life: Quilts and Quakerism.

Set prior to the Civil War, The Last Runaway is the story of Honor Bright, who leaves England for America, accompanying her sister Grace who is to be married in Ohio; once there Honor becomes aware of American slavery and runaway slaves. The Quaker context is important; Honor and most of those around her are Friends, but their Quaker ethics are complicated by personal circumstances. Honor is an avid quilter and there is a lot in the book about the differences in quilting styles between England and America, and also a reference to a Gees Bend type of quilt that catches her eye.

A few of the characters are well-developed, but not all. Interspersed among the chapters are letters Honor has written back to England; they add to the details of life in that time and place. I liked the details about the millinery shop.

This was a good book, not a great book, a couple of notches above Jennifer Chiaverini's efforts. There might be interesting discussion about runaways, living one's ethics when one's wellbeing is at risk, things that begin and end in cornfields, and whether there is symbolism in the quilts. I believe I would give it a "B."



7 comments:

Brenda said...

I gave it a mixed review too. It worked, but it wasn't as compelling as it could be. http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/arts-and-life/entertainment/books/historical-novelist-eyes-underground-railway-187569221.html

cityquilter grace said...

is this spooky or what; just picked it up at the library last night....

Denise in PA said...

Thanks for the review, Nancy! It is one I think I will put on my list to read!

Barbara Anne said...

Thanks for the book review!

One of my failings is that when I start reading an interesting book, all else goes by the wayside. No laundry, no sewing, no cleaning. Nada. Nothing. It's always been that way so when I have things that must be done, I don't pick up a book. Now books on CD ....!

Hope your area doesn't get too much snow. Of course, we have rain.

Hugs!

Adam Honnold said...

I appreciate your reviews and the comments left. This book has been on my radar for awhile now, and I continue to hear mixed reviews. Like you, I LOVED Girl With a Pearl Earring, and because of that, I will likely read this in the very near future.

Jayne Honnold said...

Dang It!! I hate when I do that! I forget that my son occasionally uses this computer, and he was logged in (complete with his zombie pic), so that previous comment is mine, not his! (gracious!!!)

Nann said...

I checked out "The Last Runaway" but had to return it before I began it....I'll get to it soon. I like Tracy's books, too. A couple of years ago I read "Remarkable Creatures" in prepub (=advance reader copy). A few weeks after that at the ALA conference Tracy was in the publisher's booth, signing the book and I told her how much I'd enjoyed it and that I'd already reviewed and recommended it. I was wearing a quilted jacket and she commented. "You're a quilter?" she asked. "My next book will be about Quakers and quilts and the Civil War." I had JUST finished "Philena's Friendship Quilt" about a real 19h century Quaker quilt, and I told Tracy the author/title. She was thrilled and gave me a hug. And in "The Last Runaway" she cites the Philena book!

P.S. Philena's Friendship Quilt, a Quaker Farewell to Ohio, by Lynda Salter Chenoweth.