A Single Thread
1932. After the Great War took both her beloved brother and her fiancé, Violet Speedwell has become a "surplus woman," one of a generation doomed to a life of spinsterhood after the war killed so many young men. Yet Violet cannot reconcile herself to a life spent caring for her grieving, embittered mother. After countless meals of boiled eggs and dry toast, she saves enough to move out of her mother's place and into the town of Winchester, home to one of England's grandest cathedrals. There, Violet is drawn into a society of broderers--women who embroider kneelers for the Cathedral, carrying on a centuries-long tradition of bringing comfort to worshippers. Violet finds support and community in the group, fulfillment in the work they create, and even a growing friendship with the vivacious Gilda. But when forces threaten her new independence and another war appears on the horizon, Violet must fight to put down roots in a place where women aren't expected to grow. Told in Chevalier's glorious prose, A Single Thread is a timeless story of friendship, love, and a woman crafting her own life.

A Single Thread Details

TitleA Single Thread
Author
ReleaseSep 17th, 2019
Publisher Penguin Group (USA) LLC
Rating
GenreHistorical, Historical Fiction, Fiction, War

A Single Thread Review

  • Paromjit
    January 1, 1970
    In A Single Thread, Tracy Chevalier paints a richly detailed picture of history and social change in England in the inter war years, set in the beautiful location of Winchester, with its magnificent cathedral. In a well researched character driven story, it is 1932, 38 year old Violet Speedwell is deemed to be one of the 'surplus' women, a consequence of the huge numbers of men lost in WW1, women who are both pitied and feared. She is still feeling the loss of her fiance and her brother in the w In A Single Thread, Tracy Chevalier paints a richly detailed picture of history and social change in England in the inter war years, set in the beautiful location of Winchester, with its magnificent cathedral. In a well researched character driven story, it is 1932, 38 year old Violet Speedwell is deemed to be one of the 'surplus' women, a consequence of the huge numbers of men lost in WW1, women who are both pitied and feared. She is still feeling the loss of her fiance and her brother in the war, stifled by a difficult and suffocating mother. She saves up, moving to Winchester, living an impoverished existence in a lodging house and working as a typist. On a visit to the Cathedral, there is a ceremony for the 'broderers', her interest is captured by the embroidered kneelers. She joins the group of women, that includes the real life Louise Pessel.As she immerses her life in embroidery, she finds so much more than she could ever have expected. She discovers an inner fulfillment, support, friendship and community, along with secets, whilst feeling drawn to a married bellringer, Arthur. She becomes more aware of who she is, and what she is good at. Chevalier goes into incredible detail on the craft of embroidery and campanology, in a slow moving but involving narrative. Violet is a strong, determined, flawed woman, resilient, as despite the challenges she and other women face, she is intent on shaping her life into what she wants it to be, refusing to be defined by others. There are all the issues often associated with small communities, small minded individuals, gossip, judgementalism, and prejudice. Amidst a horizon that hints of another world war, we are given a snapshot of this particular historical period, people and place, with beautiful descriptions of the location. The novel touches on issues of the position of women, of sexuality, of being an unmarried mother, of the importance of friendships, of identity, family, of love and art. This is not a book for those looking for a fast paced read, this is more one to savour, and engage in the characters and the Winchester Cathedral community in the 1930s. This is for those who love character driven historical fiction, particularly of this era. Many thanks to HarperCollins for an ARC.
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  • Angela M
    January 1, 1970
    Violet inadvertently walks into the Winchester Cathedral during a ceremony for the “broderers” and is taken with the embroidered kneelers. I was not and the first part of the book was a trudge for me. I was bored. I kept reading, though, because I admired how Violet asserted her independence and moves away from her constantly complaining mother. I felt for her - alone and barely making enough for room and breakfast, frequently skipping a meal and still after years is grieving the loss of her fia Violet inadvertently walks into the Winchester Cathedral during a ceremony for the “broderers” and is taken with the embroidered kneelers. I was not and the first part of the book was a trudge for me. I was bored. I kept reading, though, because I admired how Violet asserted her independence and moves away from her constantly complaining mother. I felt for her - alone and barely making enough for room and breakfast, frequently skipping a meal and still after years is grieving the loss of her fiance, her brother in the Great War. She was considered one of “Surplus Women “. (Surplus women is a phrase coined during the Industrial Revolution referring to a perceived excess of unmarried women in Britain.” Wikipedia). The middle part of the book was better and I liked the descriptions of the bell ringing and Violet’s growing relationships . While I get what Chevalier seems to be portraying here, the challenges of these women in society in general, the workplace and even in their families, the delivery of the story fell short for me, felt a bit contrived at times. In spite of this, I think it’s worthy of three stars because as I mentioned I admired Violet and some of the other women in the broderers group, and their coming together in friendship made for a good ending. I read this with Diane and Esil. This has been rated higher by a number of reviewers, so we may be outliers here. I received an advanced copy of this book from Viking through Edelweiss.
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  • Tammy
    January 1, 1970
    Despite having neither the temperament nor the talent to actively engage in the fiber arts, I have always had an interest in them. My forays into the world of knitting and needlepoint have resulted in frustration and, I sheepishly admit, swearing like a sailor. We have a world renowned art museum here which has many fine examples on display so I content myself with viewing textiles, tapestries and so on rather than actively taking part. In this novel, embroidery (needlepoint) provides a spinster Despite having neither the temperament nor the talent to actively engage in the fiber arts, I have always had an interest in them. My forays into the world of knitting and needlepoint have resulted in frustration and, I sheepishly admit, swearing like a sailor. We have a world renowned art museum here which has many fine examples on display so I content myself with viewing textiles, tapestries and so on rather than actively taking part. In this novel, embroidery (needlepoint) provides a spinster with a way to connect with other women and leave her mark upon the world in the form of decorative kneelers for the cathedral in Winchester. Patterns of bell ringing at the cathedral also play a prominent role. Although one incident rang false to me, this is a charming and delightful historical novel filled with women struggling to come into their own, forging a future, and casting off society’s definitions of what it meant to be an independent, single female between the two world wars.
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  • Ceecee
    January 1, 1970
    In a world that increasingly appears to have gone mad this book is a soothing, calming balm! This story is understated, gentle and about a bye gone age when societies rules and foibles are usually strictly obeyed. Tracy Chevalier is an author who can create a picture, a character and an atmosphere with the appearance of effortlessness and that takes great skill and understanding of your craft. The main character is Violet Speedwell and the era is the 1930’s, the setting is principally beautiful In a world that increasingly appears to have gone mad this book is a soothing, calming balm! This story is understated, gentle and about a bye gone age when societies rules and foibles are usually strictly obeyed. Tracy Chevalier is an author who can create a picture, a character and an atmosphere with the appearance of effortlessness and that takes great skill and understanding of your craft. The main character is Violet Speedwell and the era is the 1930’s, the setting is principally beautiful Winchester and much of the focus is on the cathedral. Violet is a lovely character although the book has a number of great characters, some who are very likeable (Tom, Arthur, Miss Pesel etc) and some less likeable such as Violet’s moaning Minnie of a mother. Violet has known great sadness as her fiancé and brother were killed in the Great War but she is trying to get her life back on track and the Winchester Broderers and Bell Ringing are key to that recovery. I found the embroidery aspect fascinating (though I have zero ability with a needle being totally cack handed!) and a lot of this aspect of the book is grounded in fact, Miss Pesel existed and was in charge of the designs and much of the work referred to can still be seen in the cathedral. I especially loved that and this is something that Tracy Chevalier frequently does in her books. I like the gentle humour and there are some lovely and absurd stories that are so ridiculously English - eccentricity coming fairly easy! There are moments of menace too and Violet shows just how self possessed she could be at times of threat. Society of the time is well depicted too especially peoples attitudes to same sex relationships and unmarried mothers although some characters refuse to bow to the conventions of the day. There is unrequited love but healing too as Violet is able to move on from her losses and in her own inimitable way finds solace. The ending of the book is lovely and optimistic albeit with the spectre of Hitler hanging over the world. Tracy Chevalier is a wonderful author, I’ve read all of her books so it was a privilege to receive an early copy of this book. Thanks to NetGalley and HarperFiction. Publication Date 5th September
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  • Emer (A Little Haze)
    January 1, 1970
    This was my first time reading a novel by Tracy Chevalier and I have a somewhat mixed reaction. That's not to say the book is not enjoyable, because it really is. But something was a little bit missing for me and by about the 2/3 mark I was really ready for the book to be over. A Single Thread follows the character of Violet Speedwell in 1930s England. Violet is in her late thirties and is what is known at the time as a "surplus woman" meaning that she is unmarried and most likely without any pr This was my first time reading a novel by Tracy Chevalier and I have a somewhat mixed reaction. That's not to say the book is not enjoyable, because it really is. But something was a little bit missing for me and by about the 2/3 mark I was really ready for the book to be over. A Single Thread follows the character of Violet Speedwell in 1930s England. Violet is in her late thirties and is what is known at the time as a "surplus woman" meaning that she is unmarried and most likely without any prospects of ever getting married. Both Violet's brother and fiancé were killed in World War I and she is still very much mourning the loss of these important men from her life. The story starts with Violet finally asserting her independence and leaving her home to come live and work in Winchester. One day she stumbles across a church service where a group of women volunteering as broaderers (people who embroider) are presenting their work, kneelers and cushions, at the cathedral. And thereafter Violet becomes a broaderer herself and gets involved in the secrets and lives of some of these women. She also gets to know some of the bell ringers and is particularly taken by a married man named Arthur. One of the things I loved the most about this book is the research and historical accuracy of both embroidery and bell ringing. This book is brim full of careful details about canvas embroidery (needlepoint) and as someone who dabbles in both knitting and sewing I found this fascinating. It was so interesting learning about the stitches and patterns used to create kneelers and cushions for Winchester Cathedral in the 1930s. And what truly made this book standout was the fact that one of the characters in the book was actually based on a real life person from that era, Louisa Pesel. I only discovered this fact as I was reading the acknowledgements section at the end of the book and it made perfect sense to me when I read about this woman's embroidery legacy Winchester Cathedral because Lousia was one of the most memorable and authentic feeling characters in the book. The book also sheds light on the skill of bell ringing in churches and cathedrals. It's truly amazing to read about these men that were so committed to enriching their parish's daily activities. Both these topics could so easily have been dull to read about but Chevalier somehow managed to bring them both alive and really helped me to appreciate the skill sets of the characters involved in these activities. I also really enjoyed reading about Violet and found her to be a thoroughly engaging main character. I liked that she had some spunk in her but also had many doubts. It was the juxtaposition of the two that made her feel quite human. It was the majority of the supporting characters that I feel let the book down. I did really enjoy the LGBTQ+ storyline that involved one of Violet's friends but I found the characterisations of her mother and surviving brother to be somewhat lacking. They felt rather cliched rather than truly authentic to me. And I struggled to ever really feel invested in the subtly written relationship between Violet and Arthur. I kept hoping Violet would just kick him to the curb and that storyline would wrap up half way through the book as I truly did not understand her connection to him. Sadly this wasn't the case and Arthur hung around annoying me until the very end! This book is definitely a book more concerned with character than plot, and because I felt rather ambivalent about so many of the supporting characters I think that's why I feel somewhat mixed about this book. So much of their stories just felt perfunctory in that I felt I was being told things as a reader rather than truly feeling them. All in all this was a positive reading experience and I definitely would read something by Chevalier again. My rating is 3.5 stars. *An e-copy of this book was kindly provided to me by the publisher, The Borough Press/Harper Collins UK, via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.* For more reviews and book related chat check out my blog
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  • Diane S ☔
    January 1, 1970
    DNF at 50%. Feel awful because this is my monthly read with Esil and Angela. This for me is one of those books that one neither hates nor likes.. It is just stagnant. If you like embroidery or hell ringers you might have better luck. it is missing a spark, just too much yada yada.
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  • Linda
    January 1, 1970
    "A story is like building a chapel; A novel is a cathedral." (Rosario Ferre)Tracy Chevalier centers A Single Thread around the majesty of the Cathedral in Winchester with its mighty presence and its abundant history. Winchester Cathedral becomes the focal point of what has occured in the past in its community and what is transpiring in early May of 1932.Winchester still bears the scars of World War I in which loss sits heavily at the elbow of family upon family. Young men left the township in dr "A story is like building a chapel; A novel is a cathedral." (Rosario Ferre)Tracy Chevalier centers A Single Thread around the majesty of the Cathedral in Winchester with its mighty presence and its abundant history. Winchester Cathedral becomes the focal point of what has occured in the past in its community and what is transpiring in early May of 1932.Winchester still bears the scars of World War I in which loss sits heavily at the elbow of family upon family. Young men left the township in droves only to return shattered in mind and body or not at all. Violet Speedwell feels the hollowness of fatality in the realization that there will never be a future for her brother, George, or there will never be the promises fulfilled of love from her fiance, Laurence. At thirty-eight, Violet has swallowed down the bitterness of living with her stern widowed mother who needles Violet constantly. Nothing that Violet does will heal the negativity and resentment that flows constantly within her mother. Violet decides to leave Southhampton and make a break for Winchester. She secures a job as an insurance typist in a small firm. She barely has enough money to rent a small room and certainly not much for extras.But just as the Cathedral has always been the heartbeat of Winchester, it becomes the focus of Violet's new life. She inquires about the embroidering being done over the years by a group of women embellishing the kneelers, cushions, and alms bags with their works of art. Louisa Pesel (a real life individual) takes her under her wing and soon Violet is creating impressive work herself.The Cathedral becomes Violet's source of refuge as the world takes its place on the precipice of another war. The Nazi Party is securing a foothold in Germany with Hitler taking advantage of economic uncertainties and unrest. It is here that Violet will meet Arthur Knight, a bell ringer, within the Cathedral. Her entire life will take a drastic turn from here on out.Tracy Chevalier takes us deeply into the world of broderers who stitched their way into creating small offerings of beauty in a world going so wrong. Chevalier also presents the talents and finesse of the bell ringers that brought forth awe within the Cathedral's walls. But bear with the indepth descriptions of embroidery and bell ringing. She sometimes steps too far into painting mental murals of these two entities that the reader almost wishes to step away from such finite detail. Be aware, but also be cognizant of the fact that there's so much more within these walls.A Single Thread zeroes in on the quickening change within the expectations placed upon women. The severe casualties brought upon by the past war and the impending one will come to embolden women who will leave behind their pacificity and take on new and unexpected roles. Violet, herself, will walk a different path in regard to relationships, sexuality, employment, and a new emboldment in a changing world. Life certainly begins with A Single Thread.I received a copy of A Single Thread through NetGalley for an honest review. My thanks to Random House Books and to the highly talented Tracy Chevalier.
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  • Esil
    January 1, 1970
    3.25 starsA Single Thread had the ingredients for the kind of novel I usually love, but unfortunately I found it quite flat in the delivery. The story is set in the early 1930s, and focuses on Violet. Violet is 37 years old, and thinks of herself as a “surplus woman”. She wasn’t able to marry because so many men were killed during WWI, and her options in life are seriously limited by her sex and marital status. The story focuses on a year when Violet leaves her mother’s home and goes to live in 3.25 starsA Single Thread had the ingredients for the kind of novel I usually love, but unfortunately I found it quite flat in the delivery. The story is set in the early 1930s, and focuses on Violet. Violet is 37 years old, and thinks of herself as a “surplus woman”. She wasn’t able to marry because so many men were killed during WWI, and her options in life are seriously limited by her sex and marital status. The story focuses on a year when Violet leaves her mother’s home and goes to live in Westminster, where she works as a typist and joins a women’s embroidery group. She also befriends one of the cathedral’s bell ringers. My favourite part of the book was one of the sub characters, Louise Pessel, who is based on a real woman who designed embroidery. The end also came together nicely. And the writing is decent. But otherwise this one felt a bit didactic at the expense of creating fully formed complex characters and a more subtle plot. I don’t regret reading it, but I feel that it could have been much better. This was a buddy read with Diane and Angela, and none of us was particularly enthusiastic, but as always I appreciate reading with them. Thanks to Edelweiss and the publisher for an opportunity to read an advance copy.
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  • Linden
    January 1, 1970
    It's 1932, and because so many young men have lost their lives in the Great War, there is a whole generation of unmarried females, unfortunately referred to as "surplus women;" Violet at age 38 is one of them. She has lost both her fiance and brother in the war, and decides to get a job in the next town to escape living with her cantankerous mother. She gets involved with a group of women who embroider cushions for the church, and learns far more that just embroidery stitches through her associa It's 1932, and because so many young men have lost their lives in the Great War, there is a whole generation of unmarried females, unfortunately referred to as "surplus women;" Violet at age 38 is one of them. She has lost both her fiance and brother in the war, and decides to get a job in the next town to escape living with her cantankerous mother. She gets involved with a group of women who embroider cushions for the church, and learns far more that just embroidery stitches through her association with these women. Tracy Chevalier has evoked the period between the wars perfectly. I felt as if I was in this English village, where kindness and small-mindedness coexisted in the multi-faceted characters. Chevalier has done her research, and this novel is one of her best. I just couldn't put it down.
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  • Cathy
    January 1, 1970
    The author convincingly depicts the details of daily life in the 1930s and, in particular, the challenges faced by women like Violet struggling to survive on a meagre income (for example, making a choice between a hot meal, more coal on the fire or a treat such as a trip to the cinema) and facing open prejudice at work because of their gender and unmarried status, whether from necessity or inclination. For example, the unquestioned assumption that they will at some point either give up work to m The author convincingly depicts the details of daily life in the 1930s and, in particular, the challenges faced by women like Violet struggling to survive on a meagre income (for example, making a choice between a hot meal, more coal on the fire or a treat such as a trip to the cinema) and facing open prejudice at work because of their gender and unmarried status, whether from necessity or inclination. For example, the unquestioned assumption that they will at some point either give up work to marry or care for elderly relatives.When Violet Speedwell joins the Winchester Cathedral broderers it introduces her, and I suspect many other readers, to a new vocabulary: long-armed cross, rice, upright gobelin amongst others. It also allows the reader to encounter some fascinating characters such as the impressive Miss Pesel and the rather fearsome Mrs. Biggins. The observation that "a leader comfortable with her authority does not need to be strident" is entirely on point when it comes to the latter. With the author's customary insight, the relationships between the broderers, their petty prejudices and attitudes to those who, in their view, do not conform to social norms are laid bare.Outside the circle of the broderers, and in much the same vein, there's Violet's budgie-loving landlady, Mrs Harvey, who assiduously guards the coal supply and carefully vets visitors to the boarding house. And there's Violet's mother, the domineering Mrs. Speedwell, who always seems to have a put down for her daughter within easy reach but who becomes a more sympathetic figure later in the book, albeit after a little 'taming'.I liked the touching relationship that develops between Violet and Winchester Cathedral bell-ringer, Arthur Knight. They are both, in different ways, lonely people who find comfort in each other's company and conversation but recognize the seeming impossibility of something more. You wouldn't naturally think that sharing the experience of bell ringing or examining embroidered kneelers could create a sense of intimacy but the author manages it. The impending threat of a second world war, when many are still struggling to cope with the impact of the first one, is cleverly introduced through the media of both embroidery and bell-ringing. I also liked the way the concentration required to execute both skills is presented as a beneficial distraction from other worries.I warmed to Violet for her efforts to do good, such as the attention she pays to her niece Marjory or her attempts to help her fellow broderers, Gilda and Dorothy, even if her efforts do not always succeed. And I applauded her desire for independence (a 'life of sorts', as she puts it) even if that does bring with it a conflict between loyalty to family and personal fulfilment.There was only one rather melodramatic, albeit minor, element of the storyline that didn't work for me; it felt misplaced and out of character with the rest of the book. Other than that I really enjoyed immersing myself in the atmosphere of the inter-war period the author so vividly recreates in A Single Thread. And, as a bonus, I now know a lot more than I did before about embroidery and bell-ringing although not enough, I suspect, to demonstrate competence in either. The final chapters of the book left me uplifted and satisfied in equal measure.
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  • Ivana - Diary of Difference
    January 1, 1970
    Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest When the team from LoveReading UK contacted me regarding A Single Thread, all I knew was that I loved Girl With A Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier and would therefore read any other book she writes.A Single Thread follows the life of Violet, during the year 1932, a few years after the First World War. Violet has lost her brother and fiance in the war and is still learning to cope. She is labelled as a ”surplus woman” by the society, a woman that Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest When the team from LoveReading UK contacted me regarding A Single Thread, all I knew was that I loved Girl With A Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier and would therefore read any other book she writes.A Single Thread follows the life of Violet, during the year 1932, a few years after the First World War. Violet has lost her brother and fiance in the war and is still learning to cope. She is labelled as a ”surplus woman” by the society, a woman that in unlikely to marry.With the grief, the society label and the suffocation of her mother, Violet starts a journey that will change her life.She is determined to find where she belongs and who she truly is, in a time where being a woman and succeeding on your own was not praised by others.Her journey starts with a long walk in a few towns, something she used to do with her late father and brother, and it continues with her learning canvas embroidery (today knows as needlepoint), and the beautiful art of bell ringing (which pleasantly reminded me of The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo, a book I read in high school and one I should re-read).With Tracy’s writing, it is always so easy to lose yourself in the book and teleport to the past and re-live every scene as if you’re there. It is such a pleasurable experience.I loved Violet, and I loved how she coped with all challenges of that era. Post First World War times were extremely hard, with too many men dying and too many women not being able to ever marry. Violet’s courage and hope kept moving her forward! This novel yells courage. It yells freedom. It yells independence. And standing along Violet, while she finds courage when you least expect to was a moment I will cherish. I recommend it to you, if you love novels in the war time period, or novels that talk about courage!Thank you to the team at LoveReading UK, for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest
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  • SueLucie
    January 1, 1970
    Not for the first time have I read a book by this author and been intrigued by the subject matter but underwhelmed by the story. This one was no exception. The plight of the ‘surplus women’ of the years after WWI has been fictionalised before and to better effect. The embroidery project at Winchester Cathedral and the whole rigmarole of bell ringing were intriguing, though, and I am glad to have read this book for those alone, especially since I discovered at the end that the main character in t Not for the first time have I read a book by this author and been intrigued by the subject matter but underwhelmed by the story. This one was no exception. The plight of the ‘surplus women’ of the years after WWI has been fictionalised before and to better effect. The embroidery project at Winchester Cathedral and the whole rigmarole of bell ringing were intriguing, though, and I am glad to have read this book for those alone, especially since I discovered at the end that the main character in the embroidery element (Louisa Pesel) is based on a real person and that inspired me to research her life. I thought the story linking all these themes, though, was lacklustre and short on subtlety. I don’t much care for being told what to think.The price of her happiness - no, not happiness; the price of her freedom - was the misery of at least four people. It was a very high price indeed, and Violet resented having to calculate it in this way. A man never did.The characters were rather one-dimensional and I failed to engage, even with Violet whose situation in life should have moved me more. An easy enough read, but not one I’d much recommend.With thanks to Harper Collins, Borough Press via NetGalley for the opportunity to read an ARC.
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  • Emma
    January 1, 1970
    This was a wonderful read and a time period Ive rarely read about. The context fell into place for me when I realised my grandparents would have been about 40 at the time of this novel. A time when women were expected to marry and have children, but where the male population had fallen by 2 million during the Great War and when Britain was still recovering from one war, while Hitler rose to prominence as the Chancellor on the way to the next. It was terribly difficult to earn a living and live i This was a wonderful read and a time period Ive rarely read about. The context fell into place for me when I realised my grandparents would have been about 40 at the time of this novel. A time when women were expected to marry and have children, but where the male population had fallen by 2 million during the Great War and when Britain was still recovering from one war, while Hitler rose to prominence as the Chancellor on the way to the next. It was terribly difficult to earn a living and live independently as a woman ‘left on the shelf’. This is the story of a woman and the life she makes for herself, the community to which she comes to belong, the friends she makes, the interests and skills she develops and how she comes to lead her own life through a community of broderers. A poignant and lovely story. Many thanks to Netgalley for an arc of this book.
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  • Tripfiction
    January 1, 1970
    Poignant novel set in 1930s WINCHESTERViolet Speedwell is a woman in her later 30s who is trying to make her way in the world, at a time when women had very little freedom and when men were scarce following on from WW1, when so many had been killed. Her existence, as it was for many unmarried women, was pretty much hand-to-mouth, as women took jobs whilst waiting for a marriage proposal to knock on the door. If they didn’t come, what then?Women were expected to care for their parents, they were Poignant novel set in 1930s WINCHESTERViolet Speedwell is a woman in her later 30s who is trying to make her way in the world, at a time when women had very little freedom and when men were scarce following on from WW1, when so many had been killed. Her existence, as it was for many unmarried women, was pretty much hand-to-mouth, as women took jobs whilst waiting for a marriage proposal to knock on the door. If they didn’t come, what then?Women were expected to care for their parents, they were not expected to go out much on their own. The rigours of society were such that women were stifled and had to adhere to norms imposed by a masculine hierarchy. Violet and her friends are, however, not going to remain sequestered in a humdrum lifestyle.Having moved away from her über-critical mother in Southampton, Violet takes lodgings in Winchester with some other young women, a very formal set up watched over by redoubtable landlady Mrs Harvey. She also finds herself a typing job, working alongside O and Mo (Olive and Maureen) in an insurance company.A serendipitous visit to Winchester Cathedral finds her spell bound by the work of the broderers, who are sewing beautiful designs onto kneelers and seat cushions to soften the hardness of the spiritual experience. After a few test runs and eagle-eyed evaluation of her handiwork, she is welcomed into the community and it becomes a regular part of her life. She meets Gilda and her friend Dorothy and forms a firm friendship. The broderers’ work is carried out under the watchful eye of Louisa Pesel, a real person in history.She also meets bell ringer Arthur who regularly rings both at the Cathedral and in Nether Wallop but he is already married….Circumstances lead her to choose to go on a walking holiday, once again something that is not quite proper for a young woman to do and she frightens herself witless when on a lonely stretch heading South she comes under the scrutiny of a ne’er do well who dogs her life as she forges her way through constraints, just trying to live her life.This is a wonderful, gentle novel that takes the reader back to an era of stoic hardship and repressive manners. Violet as a person is beautifully formed and I certainly rooted for her to cleave her way through these tough times. It started off fairly slowly which may lose some readers, but I found it engrossing to follow Violet’s life. I really wanted to know how things would turn out for her. You will learn much – and delightful learning it is too – about needlework and bell ringing and discover more about fylfots and Thomas Thetcher’s grave (who died of a violent fever contracted by drinking small beer when hot… in 1764).As always, the author’s writing is eloquent, engaging and wonderfully observant of era and place, with tension and humour making this a very rounded and satisfying read. The author first came to my attention with Girl with the Pearl Earring which wonderfully evoked Delft in the 17th Century.The author also shares with her readers at the end, that Keith Bain bought the privilege of having a character named after him (in the novel he is a friend of Arthur’s) at an auction to raise funds for Freedom From Torture.
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  • TXGAL1
    January 1, 1970
    The fabric of Violet Speedwell’s life begins to feel worn. It is 1932 and as a 38 year-old woman, under the controlling needs of her negative,widowed mother, Violet finally decides to take her life into her own hands and moves from Southampton to Winchester—at the disappointment of brother Tom and sister-in-law Evelyn.World War I has left her bereft after the loss of her eldest brother, George, and fiancé Laurence. With the recent death of her beloved father, Violet feels one loss too many. With The fabric of Violet Speedwell’s life begins to feel worn. It is 1932 and as a 38 year-old woman, under the controlling needs of her negative,widowed mother, Violet finally decides to take her life into her own hands and moves from Southampton to Winchester—at the disappointment of brother Tom and sister-in-law Evelyn.World War I has left her bereft after the loss of her eldest brother, George, and fiancé Laurence. With the recent death of her beloved father, Violet feels one loss too many. Without her father to be the buffer between Violet and her mother, Violet is desperate to get away and discover a new life for herself.In Winchester, Violet finds a bare-bones place to live in Mrs. Harvey’s rooming house and is soon hired as a typist for an insurance company. Life is a struggle as a “surplus woman”. It is assumed that all women want to have a husband and family, therefore, no need for a job with a living wage. These women, unfortunately, are alone because their generation’s potential husbands have died as a result of World War I. There are 1.75 million more women than men after the Great War—hence, “surplus women”.Violet is without friends or family in Winchester. She begins to stitch the new borders of her life around her job, her home, the new-found Winchester Cathedral Broderers and its new purpose, and the new friendships that result. Each thread of these new relationships helps to reinforce and steady the fabric of Violet’s new life. A FINE THREAD is my first Tracey Chevalier book to read. The research into the subject matter for this historical fiction is well done. I’ve never been one clever enough for beautiful needlecraft, but I certainly feel as though I’ve learned a lot about Louisa Pesel and her exquisite contribution to this art.I felt that all of the characters were well-written and that they made the story come alive. At times the pacing was slowed, but I attribute this to the time and place. Thank you to Viking/Random House for the ARC of A FINE THREAD in exchange for an honest review. Its expected release date is September 17, 2019.
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  • Michelle
    January 1, 1970
    A Single thread Is the first book from Tracy Chevalier that I have read, and I love historical fiction so I happy when my request was granted to get a copy of this book.It’s 1932, Victoria Speedwell is 38 years old, unmarried and suffering the losses of her fiancé and brother in the war. Like so many others at that time. She is deemed a ‘surplus’ woman after the losses of men and married women fear her. She decides that she wants to be more independent and doesn’t want to live with her mother an A Single thread Is the first book from Tracy Chevalier that I have read, and I love historical fiction so I happy when my request was granted to get a copy of this book.It’s 1932, Victoria Speedwell is 38 years old, unmarried and suffering the losses of her fiancé and brother in the war. Like so many others at that time. She is deemed a ‘surplus’ woman after the losses of men and married women fear her. She decides that she wants to be more independent and doesn’t want to live with her mother anymore who stifles her and keeps complaining all the time. So, she decides to move to Winchester and takes a job as a typist for an insurance company and lives in a boarding house. After her meagre earnings and paying the boarding house Victoria lives a quite poverty, compared to her colleagues at the insurance company. She is quite jealous of them, with their make up and up to date fashion. When she gets involved with a embroidery group that makes kneelers and cushions for the Winchester Cathedral a whole new world opens up for her. She meets a mixture of people on her travels and gets involved with a bell ringer from the cathedral.Although I love historical novels and I love the story of Victoria claiming her independence and found this quite slow in parts. I did find the parts of the embroidery group quite interesting but, I just thought that there was something missing in this story. I can’t put a finger on it. 3.5 stars from me.
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  • Hannah
    January 1, 1970
    I do love some good historical fiction. They’re my comfort reads - perfect whatever the weather, whatever my mood, and however much time I have to devote to one. I especially like ones that happen in slightly out of the box time periods - familiar and unknown all at once. Between the wars is ripe for the picking, but is often forgotten for the more exciting stories that lay either side of it, despite it being a time of great social change. So, I was particularly keen to get my hands on this one. I do love some good historical fiction. They’re my comfort reads - perfect whatever the weather, whatever my mood, and however much time I have to devote to one. I especially like ones that happen in slightly out of the box time periods - familiar and unknown all at once. Between the wars is ripe for the picking, but is often forgotten for the more exciting stories that lay either side of it, despite it being a time of great social change. So, I was particularly keen to get my hands on this one. An ominous thread runs throughout the novel, giving it an unexpected moodiness that chimes well with the slower pace. This is a book to relax into. The grief and loss felt by the characters is intensified for the reader with our own knowledge of what awaits them. I felt a real affinity for Violet, and a sympathy for the position held by “surplus women” like her. To live a life so exposed and yet so forgotten leads to an odd existence, amplified by the duality of pity and fear thrown at you by society. And once again we get to delight in the author’s curiosity and knack for finding very niche areas of arts history. Louisa Pesel, and her remarkable textiles (including the cathedral embroideries central to the book), are very real. I like the sideways direction Chevalier comes at these stories with, a wonderful blend of intriguing and everyday history. A vivid snapshot of art and social history, this is a great example of what Chevalier does best.
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  • James Cross
    January 1, 1970
    Now, I'm not the target audience for this book. This book is set in the early 1930's about an unmarried thirty something woman who has suffered great losses, who is a typist and the book heavily features cathedrals, embroidery, bell ringing and holidays. I am a gay married man with a child, who likes eating twix chocolate bars and playing Mario games. Hey, we're the same age.But. Having never read a Tracy Chevalier book I wasn't aware that her writing could wash away my scepticism within about 2 Now, I'm not the target audience for this book. This book is set in the early 1930's about an unmarried thirty something woman who has suffered great losses, who is a typist and the book heavily features cathedrals, embroidery, bell ringing and holidays. I am a gay married man with a child, who likes eating twix chocolate bars and playing Mario games. Hey, we're the same age.But. Having never read a Tracy Chevalier book I wasn't aware that her writing could wash away my scepticism within about 20 pages. She makes Violet come alive, she is flawed but strong, and her struggle to be free and independent is something you really root for.I genuinely never thought stitching a kneeler for church could be such a well of emotion and drama, but I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Also impressive was the firm sense of place and time. Despite the obligatory Nazi foreshadowing (honestly the least interesting part of the book), this is a vivid picture of a society on the cusp of change when it comes to feminism, LGBT issues and emancipation. I expected to leaf through a standard romance, but I ended up avidly reading a charming involving story.
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  • Aura
    January 1, 1970
    I would like to bow my head to Tracy Chevalier with respect. This is a lovely book about a young woman who loses her brother and her fiance to the Great War. What is a woman's role without a man? In the UK between WWI and WWII, it was uncharted territory. At 38, Violet decides to live her life independently and unconventionally, partly because of the grief of losing her brother and fiance and partly because there is a scarcity of eligible men after the war. I just read City of Girls by Elizabeth I would like to bow my head to Tracy Chevalier with respect. This is a lovely book about a young woman who loses her brother and her fiance to the Great War. What is a woman's role without a man? In the UK between WWI and WWII, it was uncharted territory. At 38, Violet decides to live her life independently and unconventionally, partly because of the grief of losing her brother and fiance and partly because there is a scarcity of eligible men after the war. I just read City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert and I have been thinking about this idea of women's roles and are we in place today where women can be free to be who they are. This book WOWed me. It is historical fiction with perks. There is love, there is a cathedral, there is embroidery, there is a long hike, there are important issues about women and their roles in society ... I loved it.
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  • Kathy
    January 1, 1970
    I really love Tracy Chevalier – she just has a gift of taking you effortlessly to another time and place. This wasn’t a page turner, or an edge of your seat thriller, but I loved every page. It was just so nice, easy, comfortable and I was just immersed into another world. Loved the characters as well. This book is about a woman who is trying to be independent and make her own way after WWI. Violet joins an embroidery project at Winchester Cathedral which I actually became quite interested in al I really love Tracy Chevalier – she just has a gift of taking you effortlessly to another time and place. This wasn’t a page turner, or an edge of your seat thriller, but I loved every page. It was just so nice, easy, comfortable and I was just immersed into another world. Loved the characters as well. This book is about a woman who is trying to be independent and make her own way after WWI. Violet joins an embroidery project at Winchester Cathedral which I actually became quite interested in although it’s not something I do, so I really enjoyed the women being so involved in their project and then we had another section about bell ringing which was also quite interesting and was woven into the story nicely. If you like historical reads I do recommend A Single Thread.
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  • Val Robson
    January 1, 1970
    A Single Thread follows the life of Violet Speedwell in 1932 as she attempts to escape the clutches of her negative and demanding mother. Violet, at 38 and single, is one of the ‘surplus women’ left when there are two million less men than women in the country due to the losses and injuries in WW1.As with all the Tracey Chevalier novels that I have read there is an historical theme. This book focuses on the broderers and bellringers in Winchester Cathedral. The broderers are a group who do canva A Single Thread follows the life of Violet Speedwell in 1932 as she attempts to escape the clutches of her negative and demanding mother. Violet, at 38 and single, is one of the ‘surplus women’ left when there are two million less men than women in the country due to the losses and injuries in WW1.As with all the Tracey Chevalier novels that I have read there is an historical theme. This book focuses on the broderers and bellringers in Winchester Cathedral. The broderers are a group who do canvas embroidery (needlepoint) to create the kneelers, cushions, etc in the cathedral. A Single Thread wasn’t as gripping as some of the other Tracey Chevalier books I have read though. I think maybe the subject being a little closer to home so wasn’t sufficiently different to grip me in the same way as some of the other topics she’s chosen for her historical fiction. The plot also seemed a little thin with quite a bit of emphasis on the embroidery stitches and bell-ringing techniques. Having said that I still enjoyed it and will certainly be looking at kneelers in churches and cathedrals in a completely different light from now on.With thanks to NetGalley and HarperFiction for a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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  • Joan Happel
    January 1, 1970
    Violet Speedwell is one of England’s “surplus women”. That generation of women whose husbands and would-be-husbands never returned from WWI, leaving countless females who were forced to alter their expectations and take up the mantle of earning a living, caring for their aging parents and accepting their spinsterhood. Violet has decided leave her embittered mother’s home to eke out a life for herself working as a typist in Winchester. One day, while visiting Winchester Cathedral she encounters o Violet Speedwell is one of England’s “surplus women”. That generation of women whose husbands and would-be-husbands never returned from WWI, leaving countless females who were forced to alter their expectations and take up the mantle of earning a living, caring for their aging parents and accepting their spinsterhood. Violet has decided leave her embittered mother’s home to eke out a life for herself working as a typist in Winchester. One day, while visiting Winchester Cathedral she encounters one of the broderers who create the beautiful, intricate seats and kneelers for the cathedral. When she joins the group she meets real-life embroidery pioneer, Louisa Pesel. After a slow start, Violet begins to feel a sense of kinship with the other women and a regaining of the confidence she thought she had lost. The changes wrought by her work at the cathedral begin to spill over into her work and home life as well. The grayness of her life begins to peel away and hope for a sense of fulfillment and happiness begins to seep in.This is a beautiful and compelling story, richly detailed and well-researched. Violet and the other surplus women in Chevalier’s novel are strong and resilient, refusing to just slip into the shadows as society wants them to. They are an ever present reminder of an horrific war that took away a generation of young men, yet these women are determined to not just survive, but to thrive; on their own terms. Bittersweet, but ultimately up-lifting, this is a novel to savor and share.Thank you to Penguin Group and NetGalley for the e-ARC.
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  • Patricia
    January 1, 1970
    I would give A SINGLE THREAD more of a 3.5 rating as I enjoyed reading this novel which takes place after World War I. Written very well, this book is about love and friendship. It is about a 38 year old woman wanting to escape the hold her family seems to have over her. This woman, Violet, leaves home, finds a job, and rents an apartment. She makes a group of friends when she joins broderers which are embroiders for a cathedral. I believe most people will enjoy giving this book a read!
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  • Tania
    January 1, 1970
    Violet Speedwell is one of many 'surplus women' since the Great War has killed so many young men. She herself lost both her fiance and her brother and is still mourning their loss. Fed up with living with her difficult and forever complaining mother, she moves to Winchester, where she becomes involved with a group of 'Broderes' who are embroidering the kneelers for the cathedral. She also befriends some of the bell-ringers and becomes interested in that as well. She has to fight hard to keep her Violet Speedwell is one of many 'surplus women' since the Great War has killed so many young men. She herself lost both her fiance and her brother and is still mourning their loss. Fed up with living with her difficult and forever complaining mother, she moves to Winchester, where she becomes involved with a group of 'Broderes' who are embroidering the kneelers for the cathedral. She also befriends some of the bell-ringers and becomes interested in that as well. She has to fight hard to keep her hard won independence, which may not make her likeable to everyone, but I liked her. Some aspects of the story felt rather less believable, it was always enjoyable. Not her best story, in my opinion, but worth a read.*Thanks to Netgalley for a copy in return for an honest opinion*
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  • Laura Hill
    January 1, 1970
    Writing: 4/5 Characters: 3.5/5 Story: 3.5/5 Historical depiction: 5/5In 1933, Violet Speedwell is one of the many “surplus” women — women for whom there simply are no men, WWI having depleted the stores. This quiet, slow-paced, and yet utterly engrossing novel follows the 38-year old Violet as she slowly makes an independent life for herself without the availability of traditional options.Leaving her home in Southampton and her embittered and critical mother, she takes a low-paid typing job and Writing: 4/5 Characters: 3.5/5 Story: 3.5/5 Historical depiction: 5/5In 1933, Violet Speedwell is one of the many “surplus” women — women for whom there simply are no men, WWI having depleted the stores. This quiet, slow-paced, and yet utterly engrossing novel follows the 38-year old Violet as she slowly makes an independent life for herself without the availability of traditional options.Leaving her home in Southampton and her embittered and critical mother, she takes a low-paid typing job and a room in a boarding house in nearby Winchester. It is there that she becomes drawn into the community of Cathedral Broderers who have taken on the task of producing the Cathedral embroideries (360 kneelers, 62 stall cushions and 96 alms bags). I am in no way “crafty,” but I found the description of the entire effort, from overall design, to process, to individual effort to be fascinating. As one of the volunteers (also a Latin teacher) says, “sic parvis magna — from small things, greatness,” commenting that these may be the only mark they are able to make on the world. I liked the fact that the lives described may have been “small” by modern dramatic standards, but were rich and full of meaning to those who lived them. There is more: early forays into independence; friendships with other women who have not made conventional choices; beautiful descriptions of the natural beauty of the region; and some utterly fascinating descriptions of bell-ringing (did you know that in campanology (bell ringing) a “Peal” is a pattern of bell ringing that goes through 5,000 changes without stopping and can take over three hours? I did not. Don’t forget — each bell is pulled at the precise time by an actual human being.) Excellent historical fiction based on real events and organizations and beautiful writing that stays true to the mores and habits of the period.Thank you to Viking and NetGalley for providing an advance copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. The book will be published on September 17th, 2019.
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  • Susan Johnson
    January 1, 1970
    I won this on a Goodreads giveaway so thanks to GR and Viking publishers. I really wanted to read this so I was quite excited. I have liked several of Chevalier's books very much so I was really anticipating it. Unfortunately I was disappointed. This is a dull book. It's OK but dull. It concerns a woman who is struggling after the end of WWI. Her brother and her fiance have both been killed in the War and there are very few single men after so many have died. She is suffering under her mother's I won this on a Goodreads giveaway so thanks to GR and Viking publishers. I really wanted to read this so I was quite excited. I have liked several of Chevalier's books very much so I was really anticipating it. Unfortunately I was disappointed. This is a dull book. It's OK but dull. It concerns a woman who is struggling after the end of WWI. Her brother and her fiance have both been killed in the War and there are very few single men after so many have died. She is suffering under her mother's stream of constant complaints about everything so she makes the move to Winchester. There she gets a job typing insurance forms and moves into a boarding house. She joins an embroidery group that is making kneelers and cushions for the Cathedral. She meets a married man who volunteers as a bell ringer. This is the most interesting part of the book. The bell ringing section is captivating. Unfortunately it's a small part and then we are back in the "exciting" world of embroidery. The surprises in the book can be seen a mile away and are far from exciting. It's just dull from beginning to end. It's OK but it doesn't make you excited to read it. It wasn't my favorite read but not the worse either.
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  • Julie
    January 1, 1970
    I've enjoyed all of Tracy Chevalier's books so far; this one however resonated slightly less with me than some of the others. It could be that the themes of embroidering kneelers for the church and the intricacies of bell ringing didn't appeal to me so much but that's not to say they won't appeal to other readers. On the other hand, the main character's determination to seek out an independent life for herself in what was still a very patriarchal society really caught my imagination. It's hard t I've enjoyed all of Tracy Chevalier's books so far; this one however resonated slightly less with me than some of the others. It could be that the themes of embroidering kneelers for the church and the intricacies of bell ringing didn't appeal to me so much but that's not to say they won't appeal to other readers. On the other hand, the main character's determination to seek out an independent life for herself in what was still a very patriarchal society really caught my imagination. It's hard to believe just how difficult it must have been for a young single woman. The writing is as smooth and eloquent as ever so whilst I didn't love this book, I certainly liked it.
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  • Jillian Doherty
    January 1, 1970
    This book ~ I love this book!! Violet’s fierce, and quietly cultivated determination are as vibrant with illustrated as a single woman pretrade in this time. We don’t often read about a character so well drawn, but she amongst an incredible cast of characters with their own brilliant and well developed personalities create a historical fiction that only Tracy Chevalier could write! Well comped to The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, for its delightful and innate charm; with literar This book ~ I love this book!! Violet’s fierce, and quietly cultivated determination are as vibrant with illustrated as a single woman pretrade in this time. We don’t often read about a character so well drawn, but she amongst an incredible cast of characters with their own brilliant and well developed personalities create a historical fiction that only Tracy Chevalier could write! Well comped to The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, for its delightful and innate charm; with literary finesse, and niche history of the broiderers, this warm read makes you want to start all over as soon as you’re finished.Galley borrowed from the publisher.
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  • Beadyjan
    January 1, 1970
    What makes this book a wonderfully enjoyable read is the authors' talent at taking subjects I have absolutely no interest in and weaving such a lovely story around them that I am absorbed and entranced throughout. Her writing is outstanding and the book is a delight to read.It tells the story of a very ordinary young woman, Violet, who has had the misfortune to become one of the thousands of "surplus" women following World War One. In an era when a woman’s worth was measured by the quality of hu What makes this book a wonderfully enjoyable read is the authors' talent at taking subjects I have absolutely no interest in and weaving such a lovely story around them that I am absorbed and entranced throughout. Her writing is outstanding and the book is a delight to read.It tells the story of a very ordinary young woman, Violet, who has had the misfortune to become one of the thousands of "surplus" women following World War One. In an era when a woman’s worth was measured by the quality of husband she could marry and at a time when men are extremely thin on the ground and eligible ones almost non-existent, there are a plethora of such unattached ladies, the archetypal spinster.Violet lives at home with her overbearing and crotchety Mother who neither appreciates nor values her daughter. Violet has known love, she is one of many women whose fiancé was killed in the war. Approaching early middle age her opportunities are few and her life is so dull and stifling she takes the quite bold decision to break free and manages to get a job in Winchester, a cathedral city which surely must hold more promise than slowly being suffocated as her Mothers drudge.Moving into a respectable lodging-house for impoverished ladies, she becomes instead a slave to poverty. Trying to stretch a woman’s meagre wage to provide a roof, food and clothe herself proves almost impossible and any kind of social life also seems out of her reach.At work she doesn't feel as though she fits in, working in a small office with 2 slightly younger women, who have already formed a clique they are reluctant to grant her access to. Her life is little better than before but at least she has broken free and she relishes this freedom even if she doesn't quite know what to do with it.In a world filled with people broken by the recent war, she eventually finds a little niche for herself by "gatecrashing" an event at the nearby Cathedral which she so admires and discovers a group of ladies who embroider kneelers for the Cathedral. Eventually, she manages to join this little group and makes a new friend Gilda, who is also a “surplus woman” and as much a misfit as Violet (and most of the women who are in this group). With the Cathedral as central a character to the story as Violet herself, with the bells ringing as a backdrop she manages to stitch together a kind of life for herself.What she doesn't expect is to fall in love, with someone very unsuitable with whom she can have no possible future. Little does she realise at first that her lively and outgoing new friend Gilda is also involved in an unconventional relationship she needs to conceal and the story unfolds as each tries to come to terms with choosing whether to love the wrong person or to forego love at all as they try individually to flout rigid convention and prejudice and find love where they can. There are a few idiosyncrasies which rather than detracting from the tale, add to it. Violets encounters with whom she refers to as Sherry men and an unpleasant character who seems to follow her with ill intent.There is a lot of detail about embroidery and later in the book, about bell ringing, which although central to the story I must confess I rushed through wanting to get back to Violet's story.It’s a warm and gentle story, in which you think nothing much at all is happening but when you reach the end you realize you've lived someone else's mundane life instead of your own and you know what - jolly well enjoyed every moment of it.Violet is an unlikely heroine, living a very unremarkable life. She doesn't change the world in any huge way but she fights bravely for her own right to a life of her own and represents the small moves made by women in the past to open doors for us women of today to choose to live as we want to and not how other people want us to.I unreservedly recommend this book to women of any age, who are interested in what life was like for the women who paved the way for us and who enjoy heart-warming women’s fiction and appreciate quality writing.
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  • Thebooktrail
    January 1, 1970
    Visit the locations in the novelIf you’d told me that a book about embroidery and needlepoint of tapestries and prayer stools set in and around Winchester Cathedral would be intriguing then I might have given you a funny look and doubted your judgement. When it’s the subject of a Tracy Chevalier novel however, it’s so much more than the sum of its parts and manages to weave its own kind of magic.Novels which take a real person or persons and fictionalize their story whilst bringing in the histor Visit the locations in the novelIf you’d told me that a book about embroidery and needlepoint of tapestries and prayer stools set in and around Winchester Cathedral would be intriguing then I might have given you a funny look and doubted your judgement. When it’s the subject of a Tracy Chevalier novel however, it’s so much more than the sum of its parts and manages to weave its own kind of magic.Novels which take a real person or persons and fictionalize their story whilst bringing in the historical aspects, political intrigue and battle of the sexes of times gone by are fascinating to me. It’s that idea of seeing an historical object or something old like a picture, prayer stool or wooden seat and imagining the fingerprints of time dotted across it just waiting to be discovered. This gives me all the feels and it’s like stepping back into a time machine and seeing history come alive.The writing is also sublime as always. Tracy sets this story in the 1930s, the fall out of the First World War. She integrates herself into the lives of the women who learn needlepoint to be able to join the broderers group who work in the cathedral. Louisa Pesel was the head of this group and was a real life person!It’s from then on that we are totally and utterly immersed in the lives of these women. Women were expected to behave, to stay in their place and accept their lot in life. There were more women than men who could work after the devastation of war, however, women were still not as equal as men. This is a major theme in the novel and it’s sobering to read so many years later.Despite the depression and the rumbles of another war, these women show amazing and admirable resilience. That is the story here and what a story it is.Tracy writes at the end how visitors can still see the needlepoint seats in Winchester Cathedral. There’s a few more places to visit to see the work too. After reading this novel I’m going to try and go there if only to mentally shake hands with these women and their resilience when the world was as dark as it’s ever been.
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