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Tracy Chevalier has written a number of historical novels, most notably "The Girl with the Pearl Earring" which became a bestseller and was also made into a successful film version. According to Wikipedia, 'The Last Runaway' is Chevalier's seventh published novel. This is my first encounter with any of her novels but I do enjoy historical fiction so I was looking forward to reading this.
The story centres around Honor Bright, a young Quaker girl, making the long journey from England to start a new life in Ohio, USA in the 1850's.
Honor makes what becomes a very difficult voyage alongside her older sister, with the intention of living with her sister and her sister's future husband. Unfortunately, this plan falls apart very quickly and Honor is left alone in a foreign country, wholly reliant on the kindness of strangers. The story charts Honor's struggles and strength of character as she adapts to her new circumstances and the different people that she encounters.
The story follows Honor's journey closely and chapters are interspersed with the letters that Honor writes to her friends and family back home, bringing Honor's feelings and frustrations to the fore and giving a real insight into her character.
Despite my initial reservations, I quickly became engrossed in Honor's new life and felt for her struggles to fit into a new community whilst maintaining her own sense of self and moral values. This opened my eyes to a location and era that I had no prior knowledge of and managed to hold my interest throughout, giving me a fascinating insight into the era, aspects of the slave trade and Quaker culture at that time.
Honor faces uncertainty and adversary but manages to be true to herself and to her own beliefs, even to the detriment of her own happiness and security. This is a beautiful and plausible read that sees Honor grow in strength and courage.
This wasn't a predictable read at all and I found the ending to be particularly powerful and unexpected. The characters and setting were very strong and I'm certainly intending to read more by this author. I would recommend this to anybody who enjoys historical novels as this is an excellent example of the genre.