Monday, September 30, 2013

The Last Runaway

Book Review

The Last Runaway by Tracy Chevalier.

This is a new book by an author I have enjoyed reading.

I've read several of her books, the most recent being Remarkable Creatures in 2010.

Chevalier is a master at writing historical fiction.

Most of her books are based loosely on an actual historical event or person or creation.

Girl with the Pearl Earring paints a fictional narrative around a most famous painting and painter.  Remarkable Creatures is based on obscure, but historical figures.  Burning Bright depicts friendships with a historical painter-poet.

Historical fiction with what Ms. Chevalier does well.

It was easy to pick up this book and expect an enjoying read.

I was not disappointed.

The Last Runaway

This historical fiction story is based in Ohio during the mid-nineteenth century, when the Underground Railroad was helping to transport escaped slaves to freedom.

This is a well-written story that is easy to read. The relevant characters are introduced early, without giving away too much about how they are relevant. This was nice.

Simple intentions of travel lead to tragedy and unexpected circumstances. Of course, in the nineteenth century, travel was fraught with difficulties and risks. But then again, so were societal restrictions and expectations.

Our protagonist is strong and able. We see her mourn, struggle, be productive, and then struggle again, but not just against herself. Her obligations can't repress her internal inclinations to help others.

All of this was well-presented and flowed easy enough.

The only thing I didn't like was the explicit mention of The Underground Railroad and it's "conductors". For some reason, inserting this into the story pulled me out of the story and reminded me that I was reading a book. I don't like being snapped back to the present like that. But I only found this once instance of this.

While the story is good and the writing is good, I didn't feel quite the same level of immersion I got with Girl with the Pearl Earring. Just not as much depth? Maybe. Or is it that I've already read Uncle Tom's Cabin, which does have great depth? Is that I already know about the Underground Railroad and its trials and tribulations? Or is it that the plight of the slaves was largely overlooked? More focus on their experiences would have added significant depth.

But this story is really focused on the Quaker. Not the slave.

In any case, this is a worthwhile read, even if is not quite at the same level as Uncle Tom's Cabin. Still quite enjoyable. And easy to enjoy.

Go and enjoy!

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