Firstly I would like to say a huge thankyou to Random Things Tours and Farrago for allowing me the chance to read and review this absolutely gorgeous children's book. I was sent a copy of this book in return for an honest review. This has in no way influenced my review, all thoughts and opinions are my own.
This classic Children's Fiction book, The Runaways by Victor Canning is being re-published by Farrago on 15 July 2021. It was originally published in 1972.
On a night of wild storms, two troubled figures escape from captivity.
One is a 15-year-old boy, Samuel Miles, a.k.a. ‘Smiler’, wrongly convicted of theft and sent to a young offenders institution. The other is a cheetah, Yarra, a restless resident of Longleat Wildlife Park. Both are in danger from the outside world – and each other – but somehow their lives become inextricably bound up as they fight for survival on the edge of Salisbury Plain.
A fast-moving and compassionate adventure story, The Runaways is the first book in Victor Canning's classic children's trilogy.
Well considering this book was originally written in 1972 I still found it very relevant and thoroughly enjoyed it. There are obviously a lot of differences between the time it is written and now, especially monetary values, the lives people lived and how they acted. It was a time when doors were left unlocked and safety was assumed In the countryside. People knew each other well and children had a lot more freedom. It was a pleasure to look back at those times and read what it had been like for people then.
I absolutely loved that the story was told from different POVs and that one of them belonged to Yarra the Cheetah. It was so interesting to see the world from the perspective of a wild animal. The vivid description and colour brought to the natural world was beautiful to read. Victor had such a penmanship when it came to writing about nature, he obviously took pleasure in his surroundings and describing the countryside, it was so detailed I felt I was there alongside Yarra, seeing and smelling everything with her.
Smiler, the main protagonist, was a very resourceful character, he was an endearing cheeky chappy, a boy you quickly come to love. He had many redeeming qualities and although a scamp and sometimes a petty thief he won my heart and I was rooting for him all the way through. His story was believable and his resilience in finding his way as a 'fugitive' was very clever. He and Yarra had much in common, they had both escaped from constraints and wanted freedom, it gave them a kinmanship throughout the story. I love how his interactions with Yarra are described, they too are believable.
Smiler didn't want her caught. Her freedom had somehow become linked with his own freedom. He felt, in a funny way, that it would be dead unlucky for him if he ever betrayed her.
The rest of the cast of the story were a colourful bunch of people, from Mrs Lakey, Miss Milly and Joe Ringer, his acquaintances at the farm, to Major Collingwood and his wife. They all have important roles to play in his survival and all seem to be unwittingly protecting him, although they don't know from what. Smilers character brings out the nurturing nature within them all.
The whole story was surprisingly emotional for a children's book, I felt happy and sad in equal measure, there were points where I was truly upset for the characters. I won't give you any information as to why as I don't want to give away any spoilers! You will just have to read it to find out what happens!!
This book was a great read and I can't wait to get the next two in the trilogy to find out what happens next in Smilers journey.
Victor Canning was a prolific writer throughout his career, which began young: he had sold several short stories by the age of nineteen and his first novel, Mr Finchley Discovers His England (1934) was published when he was twenty-three. It proved to be a runaway bestseller. Canning also wrote for children: his trilogy The Runaways was adapted for US children’s television.