Top critical review
50 people found this helpful
Not a runaway success
on 18 August 2013
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'.