The Last Runaway by Tracy Chevalier
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Tracy Chevalier has the gift of making her writing appear effortless and easy as her stories seem to flow naturally, the true genius of penmanship, yet her research and attention to detail demonstrates her expertise and dedication to her craft.
This story of a young English Quaker girl Honor Bright who sets off to America accompanying her sister who is engaged to be married. Following a broken relationship the quiet and unassuming Honor, nevertheless demonstrates bravery in taking, what in the 1850s must have been an immense leap of faith and a massive journey. Beset by tremendous sea sickness her only desire is to land in her new homeland but things don't go to plan and she finds herself alone and uncertain amongst strangers who in the main seem not to want her there.
She finds friendship in the unlikely guise of Brash Belle the Milliner, whose rough edged brother Donovan attracts and repels Honor. The story builds around her natural distaste for slavery and desire to help runaways and her need to help herself survive in the days when a woman alone had few choices and marriage was something not just desirable but almost essential.
I found the story with its background of Quakerism interesting, having recently moved to the Quaker town of Darlington where the Quaker history of the town is much in evidence today, I liked reading about the history of patchwork, Honors greatest hobby and how it differs in England and the USA and how important it was deemed. It's a gentle and easy read which nevertheless covers some gritty historical details mainly about the abolition of slavery and the so called underground railway - a network of sympathisers who helped runaway slaves
Highly recommended for anyone who enjoys historical fiction set in the early days of the USA and reading about women made strong by their circumstances.
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