I’m really just starting to learn to love the genre of historical fiction. I love learning about history, but I’ve usually gleaned my facts from nonfiction. Now that I’m really discovering historical fiction, I’m rather picky about the quality of the books I read.
Thus far, my model of wonderful historical fiction is Clara and Mr. Tiffany by Susan Vreeland (my review).
Other end of the spectrum: Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker by Jennifer Chiaverini (my review).
Where does The Last Runaway fall, you may be asking? I’d say smack dab in the middle. It includes plenty of history without reading like a textbook. Yet I never really felt like I was there with Honor. I remained a passive observer from the 21st century. I’ve yet to pinpoint why exactly this is. In part, it could be that there was something just a little too flat in the character of Honor. She wasn’t as real as she could have been. And it could have been that the plot had the potential for epic events, but it remained limited to one town and just a few characters. That’s probably more realistic for actual people in that actual time period. But I expect fiction to go beyond that and tell me a big story.
I’m probably being much too picky. I’m just trying to figure out why I was left feeling slightly dissatisfied at the end of this book.
All that being said, I still recommend it. It’s an interesting look at Quaker culture in the 19th century, as well as the actual running of the Underground Railroad. And being written by Tracy Chevalier, it’s of course deeply researched and includes many details. The Last Runaway would make a good addition to a list of novels about the Underground Railroad – just make sure it isn’t the only one, because there’s a lot more to say on the subject!