I took a break from reading David Copperfield to delve into The Quarry Bank Runaways. What I discovered was an author with a flair to not only write a historical fiction but also to write historically. Some authors write historical fiction by basically writing a modern novel with a historical background (like a cheaply painted backdrop at a play), but The Quarry Bank Runaways reads like a book from the 1800s. The writing style, descriptions of events, and use of language put the reader firmly in the time period.
I loved the various accents that the characters had as Joseph and Thomas traveled from the north of England (near Manchester) to London. The descriptions of people and places were not overly wordy, yet I was able to picture myself right there alongside the boys as they met both friendly and hostile people and environments along the way. Griffiths uses some of the same devices as Dickens in weaving his tale, such as delving into the backgrounds of minor characters, but Griffiths delivers them in such a way as to instantly give the reader a feel for the characters. What I liked about this was that Joseph and Thomas didn’t just meet a bunch of cardboard characters along the road; you instantly feared, despised, or empathized with them.
This book was not only entertaining but also an education. I was acquainted with the conditions of the workhouses of 19th century England; however, I was not aware of the situations in which children could be sent away and indentured to a mill owner against their or their parents will. My heart went out to the Joseph and Thomas as they walked almost 200 miles just to see their mothers.
I highly recommend this book to those who love historical fiction, fans of 19th century literature, and history buffs of all kinds.