An Evening with Tracy Chevalier

September 30, 2013 - Sharon Blanchard

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Over 100 enthusiasts joined multi-million selling author Tracy Chevalier at the Museum for the latest in the 2013 programme of talks.

A mixture of book lovers, quilters, and members of the Bath Quaker community came together to hear Tracy talk about her latest book, ‘The Last Runaway’. The novel is set in the clandestine world of the Underground Railroad, a network set up to help escaping slaves to freedom in 1850s Ohio. It explores a young English Quaker woman’s struggle to adapt to life in America, her battles with her Quaker conscience and also delves into the craft of quilting. (See a full review on the Museum’s blog.)

The Museum was a fitting setting for her talk, said Tracy, given our superb collection of quilts which she described as ‘the best she has seen’. Our Square-in- a-Square silk Quaker quilt features on the end paper of the book, which is now out in paperback.

Quaker Square-in-a-Square Quilt

In an absorbing hour Tracy treated the audience to an insight into the way she approaches her writing, the meticulous research she undertakes, and the personal experiences she draws on to add to the credibility of her characters.

Born in Washington DC, Tracy moved to London 30 years ago making Europe the location for her previous books.  ‘The Last Runaway’ is the first of her seven novels to be set in her native America.

She described the differences she experienced when she first came to the UK – the smell of taxi exhaust, creosote, and coal fires – and the taste of water, so different from American water that a cup of tea will never taste the same. She drew on all those experiences to create the struggles which beset Honor Bright as she strived to come to terms with life in America.  She also delighted the audience with examples of her own quilting work, produced after joining a quilting club to aid her research and to which she remains a member, long after finishing her book.

Tracy Chevalier and quilt

Tracy completed her talk by reading scenes from ‘The Last Runaway’, complete with her range of American accents, and by signing copies of her book for a very appreciative, and very long, queue of  book lovers, many of whom, I suspect, went home and avidly started reading their newly dedicated copy.

Tracy Chevalier book signing

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