Thursday, 10 April 2014

Book Review: The Last Runaway by Tracey Chevalier

Author’s Blurb

The stunning new novel from the bestselling author of Girl With a Pearl Earring. Honor Bright is a sheltered Quaker who has rarely ventured out of 1850s Dorset when she impulsively emigrates to America. Opposed to the slavery that defines and divides the country, she finds her principles tested to the limit when a runaway slave appears at the farm of her new family. In this tough, unsentimental place, where whisky bottles sit alongside quilts, Honor befriends two spirited women who will teach her how to turn ideas into actions.

Review by Hazel Barker

The Last Runaway is a fast-paced enjoyable historical novel, and a perfect mix of page-turning plot and characters. The book imparts a succinct and informed account of the underground railway and of the lifestyle of Quakers during the 1850s. It is an emotion-packed novel of homesickness, grief and guilt, written in a taut, lucid style.

The author delves into the main characters’ minds and gives a sense of the intrigue, deep loyalties and hatred of each character. Honor Bright jeopardizes her marriage for the sake of her convictions, a milliner forgets herself to help others, and an ex-slave risks her own freedom to rescue her children from slavery. Jack Haymaker is long-suffering and patient; his patience and forgiveness are much to be admired. Even the antagonist Donovan has some redeeming points.

The book depicts the struggle between good and evil and reveals the weaknesses and strength of human nature. The Last Runaway could be listed among Christian books but for the fact that the author writes a ‘bedroom scene’, where the protagonist loses her virginity in the cornfields of Ohio. I considered the scene indelicate though not obscene. It is unsuitable for young adults.

About Hazel Barker

Born in Burma, Hazel Barker migrated to Perth over thirty years ago, and completed her Bachelor of Arts degree at the University of Western Australia. She moved to Canberra in 1971, and married Colin. She holds degrees in education and nutrition, a diploma in theology, and has had excerpts from her books published in two anthologies. You can find her at her website,


  1. Thanks for such an interesting review, Hazel. I liked your phrasing: 'indelicate but not obscene'. It's one to keep in mind for future reference!

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  4. I loved this book Hazel. But found that scene you mentioned out of keeping with the rest of the story and the character of Honor. Have to say I much preferred the cover I had than the one above. You will find it on my review at Goodreads

  5. My feelings exactly about the scene being out of keeping with the rest of the story, Dale. I haven't yet read your review at Goodreads, but will do so sometime.

  6. Hazel, thanks for sharing your review with us. It sounds like an interesting read.