Runaway to Ohio with Tracy Chevalier

lastSetting- Ohio, USA

Jilted by her fiance in England, Honor Bright, a Quaker woman, decides to accompany her sister Grace to America to help her adjust to hew life as a pioneer woman in rural Ohio. But then tragedy strikes, and Honor is faced with trying to find her own way in a strange and often hostile land.

 

Times are hard for people – and they are especially hard if you are a slave. When Honor meets such a person, she has a lot to learn. Setting this story of slavery and hard times in the Midwest enables Chevalier to beautifully evoke the landscape and the climate very well.

Ohio - image courtesy of Wikipedia
Location of Ohio – image courtesy of Wikipedia

 

The setting becomes a character as she describes and illustrates the history and legacy of slavery and the people who suffer it. For example – What happens to those who appose or blatantly disobey the Fugitive Slave Act? What extremes do they have to go to in order to try and make things right? What happens if they get caught? And who is looking to catch them out?

The flavour of the American midwest is not only evoked by setting of course – the way of life and the social mores of the time are examined such as the difference between English quilting and the American way of doing it, recipes between the two countries, culture and much much more.

On hearing that this young girl is off to Ohio, a sailor on the crossing makes a comment –

Ohio! The sailor snorted. ‘ Sick to the coast, love. Don’t go nowhere you can’t smell the sea, that’s what I Say. You’ll get trapped out there in all them woods.’

 

Knowlton_Covered_Bridge_Monroe County, Ohio - image courtesy of Wikipedia
Knowlton Covered Bridge, Monroe County, Ohio – image courtesy of Wikipedia

 

On seeing a covered bridge for the first time-

The bridges crossing streams and rivers from her childhood were stone and humped. Honor had not though that something as fundamental as a bridge would be so different in America.

 

Although a fictional book, there is also a lot of historical fact and circumstance interwoven into the story – the lives and suffering of the Quakers was a particular subject I had little awareness of so this was interesting to me, the underground railroad system and the subject of immigration and well, when it boils down to one thing – a poor young girl miles from home and desperately trying to survive and make sense of the world around her.

 

A Quaker bonnet of the type that Honor would have worn - image courtesy of Wikipedia
A Quaker bonnet of the type that Honor would have worn – image courtesy of Wikipedia

History really does repeat itself in many ways when you think of it like that Chevalier takes us back there and lets you experience the world through Honor’s eyes. A treat for historical fans and for those who like a good plot with a strong setting as essential to the story.

 

For more on this novel and Tracy Chevalier’s writing, then take a horse driven carriage over to her website – http://www.tchevalier.com/

6 thoughts on “Runaway to Ohio with Tracy Chevalier

  1. I read this book fairly recently too and liked it a lot. Really enjoyed your review, and love that you put little extra bits in (graphics, etc). It makes it really nice to read. 🙂

    1. Thank you! It’s the way I like to visualise and remember snippets from the novels I read. So happy that I entertain others like yourself! Means a lot coming from a fellow bookworm x

  2. Thanks for this. I’ve just chosen it as the next book for our library’s reading group and it sounds like I made a good decision! I haven’t enjoyed Chevalier’s recent books as much as some of her earlier ones, but I’m looking forward to this one.

    1. We met Tracy Chevalier recently and she is so fascinating to listen to. Turns out that since writing The Last Runaway she has become a fan of quilting herself and has even turned her hand to this for relaxing with. Talk about getting into character! This story also has a serious side to it but is told in such a unique way that you won’t feel as if you’re reading history. Lots of room for discussion though so hope you all enjoy it x

      1. It was a very good choice for our reading group! One person didn’t like it at all because she found the main character very annoying but the rest of us thoroughly enjoyed it. Lots of things to talk about and we found it very interesting to read about what people in the non-slave states thought about slavery. Really unusual.

      2. Oh yes that wouhd have been an interesting discussion I bet. It’s good when people have strong feelings about books even opposing ones as this is what makes life interesting. Coming from the UK, I guess I will have a different understanding of it all but I feel i did learn things and tried to understand what these poor people when through – on both sides of the divide. If you write up a review of any kind, I would be interested to read it!

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