Teresa's Reviews > The Last Runaway

The Last Runaway by Tracy Chevalier
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it was ok

This novel was enjoyable enough. However, reading it gives one a sensation of floating atop the story - nothing pulls a person in or attaches itself to the reader's emotions. The story is just too light.

The first hundred pages are largely given over to quilting patterns and sewing techniques, which is fine enough if one has a taste for such thorough narrations of domestique intricacies; but a reader choosing this book based on the cover description would be disappointed. It leaves one to believe that it is centred around the Underground Railroad, leaves one to expect a drama of true trials and interpersonal struggles as no tale concerning such a matter could be - or was - otherwise, especially to the people immediately concerned. However, excluding the last scene, the collection of scarce small events involving black runaways throughout this novel most definately purposes as a side story, and, futhermore, each event in and of itself also carries a feeling of being 'small.'

The majority of text is dedicated to quilting, as already mentioned, and the dynamics of Quaker communities - the back description should reflect this. Although the main character, Honor Bright, does go through a personal struggle, excited by her and her new family's differing views (including that of dealing with runaways, but certainly not the most prominent dissimilitude), the reader once again feels left floating atop, never really seeing into the character. The reader never really knows Honor Bright and some times she surprisingly demostrates more understanding then one would expect from her hollow, bland character - where did this come from?

The afforementioned aside, this book is a nice light read that can remove one from the present without demanding emotional or intellectual strain of any kind.

The scenic descriptions of this novel are on par. Chevalier can effectively paint a descriptive picture in few words; she knows just what can be left out, what the reader can fill in himself and does not drag the book down by counting off the leaves on trees.

Prehaps my rating would be higher if the cover description properly described the novel: it is a very airy book about a Quaker's life in America at the time of slavery - though slavery is far from its focal point - and do not forget to mention the quilting, quilting, quilting.

I was disappointed because I was mislead; I was expecting Underground Railroad and instead got quilting Quaker.
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Reading Progress

November 30, 2012 – Shelved
December 2, 2012 – Started Reading
December 9, 2012 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-3 of 3 (3 new)

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Dianne Kaucharik Wish I had read your review before reading this one. You are right on! I AM a quilter yet found the content regarding quilting to be over the top...and detracted from the main story. It would have been different if the book explained the use of quilts by stationmasters to signal/guide runaway slaves in their travels to freedom.


Teresa Thank you.

That's interesting. I didn't know that the quilts had been used that way. Yeah, the author should have mentioned it, seeing as how prominent quilts are in the book.


message 3: by D.L. (new) - rated it 1 star

D.L. Andersen I am a quilter as well and I was bored silly reading all the details, not to mention most sounded more like a modern quilter than a period correct one. What woman in that era would have had the time to obsess over it? And EVERY woman was expected to sew to some degree. So, things she makes a point of dissecting ad nauseum, would have been like us discussing point by point of turning on electric lights or running a microwave. And for the record, antebellum code quilts are a historic myth.


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