24 April 2015

The Last Runway by Tracy Chevalier - Book Review

The Last Runway is the latest novel by Tracy Chevalier I've been meaning to read for a long time. She is a great writer and one of my favourite ones, and I'm planning to read all of the books she's written so far.

The book is set in 1850s North America. Honor Bright, an English Quaker, sails from the South West of England with her sister Grace to America to start a new life. During the long and difficult journey, Grace dies of yellow fever and leaves Honor to face the new adventure by herself. The young woman is disoriented but brave, and manages to find her space in a new country that gives her no sense of stability. What keeps her going is the help she regularly gives to fugitive slaves on the Underground Railroad, making a dangerous but brave humanitarian act. But then, such help becomes against the law and Honor will have to make a choice…

As usual, there are no words to praise Chevalier's beautiful style of writing. It's smooth and keeps the reading intriguing for the whole book. I also liked that the book was of medium length so that it wouldn't feel like a hassle to get to the ending of it - I don't admire long books particularly; in some cases, I feel like they start to get repetitive after a while. I have to say that the first part of the book isn't amazing, but the development and conclusion are exceptional.

The story is an unusual one, or at least one that I was unfamiliar with. The description of runaways (and partly slavery in the US) is very accurate, conveying the feeling of fear surrounding it, both from the slaves to be caught escaping, and from the people helping them to get caught in an illegal action. In fact, hiding fugitive slaves had horrible consequences on the person (imprisonment) and their family (dishonor from the community). The author also gives a great account of daily life of Quakers, a Christian community  also known as Friends. While most Friends in Honor's community don't support slavery, they don't help runaways for fear of getting arrested; Honor stands out as a strong woman who risks her life for them and follows the Christian ideal of helping your fellow rather than focusing on law. She is an incredible character who slowly evolves throughout the book and charms the reader. The description of how she finds silence and Inner Light within herself is beautifully drawn.

I found The Last Runway to be a fine read and hope you enjoyed my review. Let me know your thoughts on Tracy Chevalier's style down below!

My edition: Tracy Chevalier, 2013. The Last Runway. London: Harper Collins. Pages: 369 + 9 pages of bonus material. Bought at: Paperback Exchange (Florence). This is a good edition containing a map and a section on history and the author's research.

Watch Tracy Chevalier's fantastic speech at Capital Quilts on quilting and The Last Runway here

1 comment:

  1. […] planned, I read Tracy Chevalier’s first book The Virgin Blue. After The Last Runway, which I couldn’t put down, I still felt hungry of her beautiful style and stories – so […]