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98 of 100 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Compelling Story
Tracy Chevalier is one of my favourite authors and she has a way of making history come alive in her novels which have subjects as diverse as Vermeer and fossils. In The Last Runaway she switches her focus to America, in particular 1850s Ohio where the young English Quaker, Honor Bright starts a new life very different to her quiet upbringing in Dorset, England...
Published 21 months ago by Lovely Treez

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45 of 47 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not a runaway success
Girl with a Pearl Earring is a hard act to follow and I don't think Tracy Chevalier has ever reached its heights again. I felt the characters came first in that book and the research second. In all her subsequent books, and definitely in this one, it's the other way round. I've read all her novels because I really like the subjects she chooses. I've found them interesting...
Published 16 months ago by Marjorette


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98 of 100 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Compelling Story, 14 Mar 2013
By 
Lovely Treez (Belfast, N Ireland) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Last Runaway (Hardcover)
Tracy Chevalier is one of my favourite authors and she has a way of making history come alive in her novels which have subjects as diverse as Vermeer and fossils. In The Last Runaway she switches her focus to America, in particular 1850s Ohio where the young English Quaker, Honor Bright starts a new life very different to her quiet upbringing in Dorset, England.

It is a time of great upheaval in America as the country inches towards civil war with a variety of runaways, both black slaves and white settlers, trying to forge a better life for themselves. Honor finds life hard as a single woman unaccustomed to the American way but she is aided by the flamboyant Belle Mills, a milliner, who takes Honor under her wing. Belle's brother, Donovan, sets his sights on Honor but his reputation as a dissolute slave hunter makes him an unlikely suitor.

Reminiscent of Gone with the Wind, this is a novel with strong female characters who use their wits to survive difficult times. Those travelling the Underground Railway are not the only runaways in this well-researched and eloquently written novel.
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45 of 47 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not a runaway success, 18 Aug 2013
This review is from: The Last Runaway (Hardcover)
Girl with a Pearl Earring is a hard act to follow and I don't think Tracy Chevalier has ever reached its heights again. I felt the characters came first in that book and the research second. In all her subsequent books, and definitely in this one, it's the other way round. I've read all her novels because I really like the subjects she chooses. I've found them interesting - but `interesting' is not enough, I want plots and memorable characters too. The Last Runaway is a frustrating read. Much of what Honor, the main character, says or writes home, is regurgitated research. It's all fascinating stuff - patchwork patterns, hat making, the making of American towns by pioneers, the `underground railroad' - but that doesn't make a story. There is no heart-thumping tension - yet hiding and helping runaway slaves was appallingly risky. Belle leapt off the page but none of the other characters came to life for me, not even Honor. I felt I was being told how I should feel about each of them, rather than them being shown clearly enough that I could make up my own mind.
Some of the writing was dull and repetitive, I'm sorry to say - characters `froze' rather often (a phrase I particularly dislike anyway); fabric was invariably `dotted'. If this wasn't by the author of Girl with a Pearl Earring and was instead a manuscript by A. N. Author on a publisher's slush pile it would be returned `Could try harder'.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very enjoyable read, 25 Jun 2013
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Interesting story, well paced, well written and not overly challenging or too long. Chevalier's use of a small group of characters playing out the difficulties of managing faith principles in a vast new environment where pragmatism and compromise are also essential for survival, is well balanced. You feel the struggle of the central character in coming to terms with how to manage this new way of living and the tension of all the characters' frustrations without being negatively overwhelmed. A pleasure to pick up at the end of the day for a read before bed. Great for a holiday read too.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting historical background, 8 May 2013
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An easy and absorbing read, but I wasn't really convinced by most of the characters. The author had obviously done a good deal of research into the various strands of the emancipation debate, and I did learn something about the reasons for the opposition to it, and also a little bit about quilting.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Really disappointing, 18 Aug 2013
This review is from: The Last Runaway (Hardcover)
I was so looking forward to this as I enjoyed Girl with a Pearl Earring so much. The first few pages are great. However, it quickly descends into a tedious account of quilting and countryside. Some reviewers have said they found the story ridiculous. I didn't at all but I found it hard to dig out the story from so much padding.

Many of the characters are dull and plodding in their hearts and this made them hard to care for. The book could easily have been cut to half it's length; barring the initial inciting incidents, you have to move to about p170 before anything happens. Very disappointing.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Overly simplistic account of an interesting subject, 8 Mar 2014
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This review is from: The Last Runaway (Paperback)
This is the first Tracy Chevalier book I have read and I'm afraid I didn't like it. It is not a surprise to me to see that other critical reviewers have said this is her worst book; someone as successful must have written something better.
On the positive side, the plot is interesting and has plenty of potential; a Quaker community in 1850 America and its involvement in helping slaves make their way to the safety of Canada by offering food and shelter.
You'd imagine that living in such a frontier time and place would develop multi-dimensional strong characters, but this book is populated by cardboard cut-out goodies and baddies. Additionally, the main character, Honor Bright, a young English woman who finds herself in an unfamiliar country in completely unexpected and unplanned circumstances (she started her journey across America with her sister who died along the way), just didn't ring true for me. For example: she has come to America for a fresh start following the desertion of her intended future husband, and despite having previously had no more physical contact than hand holding and the odd kiss, Honor is soon romping in the hay with someone she has barely known, and is married within a matter of weeks. I'm not saying this couldn't happen, but surely there would have been some internal conflict going on.
The subject of quilting is a constant thread (excuse the pun!) throughout the book, and there are plenty of descriptions of various techniques, designs, colours, fabrics etc. Because quilting is an ever-present I'd have thought that the author would justify this by establishing an interest in the reader on this subject, but it seems to be taken as a given that everyone will find this subject fascinating. I'm afraid I didn't.
I get the impression that Tracey Chevalier is an out an out story teller, and she's not really trying to impart any deep and meaningful message. For me there are other writers who do this far more successfully (e.g. Khaled Hosseini with A Thousand Splendid Suns) and I'm afraid I didn't really engage with any of the characters in this story.
If this book is ever turned into a film I'd guess that it will be one of those rare occasions when the film is better than the book (like One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest).
Not my cup of tea at all.
Bryn
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Tedious, 13 Dec 2013
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This review is from: The Last Runaway (Paperback)
I had high hopes for this book based on the reader reviews and indeed on the subject matter, the lives of Quakers at this time and the USA in the 19th Century should be both fascinating topics. Unfortunately the book consists of disproportionate detail around the titillating and high-octane subject of quilts. Fascinating.

The protagonist Honor Bright is self-obsessed bordering on narcissistic, she is self-involved, uninteresting and ultimately not very believable. All the characters were pretty one-dimensional, there was no decent character development apart from Belle who was a fully-rounded and realistic force within the book.

The Last Runaway was an easy read and succeeded in sending me to sleep every evening but I think this may have also been something to do with boredom more than anything. I wouldn't rush to buy any more of Chevalier's books.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lovely, calming story, 7 Oct 2013
By 
Julia Flyte - See all my reviews
(TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Last Runaway (Paperback)
In 1850 Honor Bright decides to travel with her sister from Dorset to the US, where Grace is engaged to marry a dairy farmer living in a small Quaker community. Honor is a quiet and devoted Quaker who has been jilted by the man she thought she'd marry, so she decides a fresh start is what she needs. However things don't work out as she anticipates. The Atlantic crossing is arduous, her sister dies almost immediately after they arrive and America is nothing like she has expected it to be. The countryside is full of dangers and the Quaker community is less than welcoming. Honor is also shocked to encounter slaves who pass through the area while trying to escape from the South to freedom in Canada.

I don't want to say much more about the plot than that because I think the book is best read without knowing what's going to happen. That's not to say that there are any dramatic twists - this is a slow paced book - but I think it's more enjoyable if the plot unfolds at its own pace.

What I loved about this book - and I did love it, very much - is the way that Honor got under my skin. I felt absolutely present in the book and it was a very calming read. It reminds me in some ways of Brooklyn in the sense that it's not hugely action driven but it still draws you completely into the central character's inner life. It's a very cleverly constructed book that completely held my interest. The characters are rounded, interesting and believable (with the possible exception of Judith Haymaker). The book also feels meticulously researched. There are lots of details about quilting, Quakers and life at that time. For example, Honor uses "thou" and "thee" when she speaks to people, which I have since learned is a Quaker specific custom rather than being in more general use.

I can see why some reviewers have found this book boring or slow, but all I can say is that I didn't feel that way, at all.
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28 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly Recommended, 25 Feb 2013
By 
C. Colley (Lincs) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Last Runaway (Hardcover)
I've enjoyed several books by Tracy Chevalier, and was really pleased to receive a pre-publication copy of The Last Runaway. The story is set in Ohio in the 1850s and follows a young Quaker woman's involvement in helping slaves escape on the Underground Railroad.
Fleeing heartbreak, Quaker girl Honor Bright leaves Dorset and accompanies her sister, Grace, to America. In America, Honor suffers more heartbreak and finds it very hard to adjust to her new life. Eventually, Honor marries Jack Haymaker and tries to make the best of her situation. Whilst adapting to her new life on the Haymaker farm, Honor comes into contact with slaves and helps them escape to freedom via a network of secret routes and safe houses.
The themes in this novel are fascinating, and I loved the historical setting. I enjoyed reading about Quaker life, the quilt making, and learning about how runaway slaves escaped to Canada.
I soon became immersed in Honor's story. The women Honor befriends are strong characters. Belle and Mrs Reed are particularly memorable, and Belle's brother, Donovan, is another character that stands out.
The story is beautifully written, moves along at a reasonable pace and gives a good insight into a fascinating part of American history.
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29 of 33 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Unusually, Chevalier disappoints, 16 April 2013
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Having read a few Tracy Chevalier books in the past and having always enjoyed them I was looking forward to immersing myself in this story. Unfortunately I was bit disappointed with this book. I avidly read the first half and greatly enjoyed the story and history. A new immigrant to early America, her letters home, and her experiences of the new frontier. However the latter part of the book lost its way and some of the story lines were frankly ridiculous and I quickly became impatient and unsympathetic to the plight of the heroine to the extent where I couldn't really care what became of her.
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The Last Runaway
The Last Runaway by Tracy Chevalier (Paperback - 29 Aug 2013)
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