The Runaway by Elizabeth Anna Hart was first published in 1872 and then again in 1936 but my copy is a Persephone which was published in 2002.
Clarice is a 15 year old girl who is living with her father in quite a grand country house, but her mother is dead. She has a governess but lacks a friend of her own age. She’s a bit of a romantic, wishing she could have lived in the more exciting times of the past, in the times of the Charlses maybe.
Almost as soon as she says it a girl pops out of the hedge in front of her. Olga has run away from her school where she was badly treated according to her. There’s no doubt about it – Olga is a handful and I suspect her schoolteachers sighed with relief when she left it.
Clarice is enthralled by her new friend who is half Danish and half Scottish with a father in a Highland regiment (all very apt for Victorian times) and Clarice agrees to hide her in the house and feed her. Unfortunately Olga just can’t stop being naughty though and appears as a ghost in front of the governess and maid and Clarice realises that Olga is too much for her to cope with, she’ll have to track down Olga’s granny somehow as her parents are abroad – with the regiment.
I can see why this was chosen by Persephone, as it features a very unusual portrayal of a Victorian teenage girl, but I must admit that if this one had been the first Persephone book that I had read I would have thought more than twice about buying another one. It was mildly entertaining but wasn’t great. However the book is beautifully illustrated with lots of wood block prints by Gwen Raverat nee Darwin who was Charles Darwin’s granddaughter. You can see some of her work here.
I particularly liked the image below, but it’s nothing to do with this book.