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A Single Thread Reviews

A Single Thread by Tracy Chevalier

A Single Thread

Tracy Chevalier

4.00 out of 5

7 reviews

Imprint: The Borough Press
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 19 Aug 2019
ISBN: 9780008153816

It is 1932, and the losses of the First World War are still keenly felt. Violet Speedwell, mourning for both her fiance and her brother and regarded by society as a `surplus woman' unlikely to marry, resolves to escape her suffocating mother and strike out alone. A new life awaits her in Winchester. Yes, it is one of draughty boarding-houses and sidelong glances at her naked ring finger from younger colleagues; but it is also a life gleaming with independence and opportunity.

  • The BooksellerEditor's Choice
4 stars out of 5
Alice O'Keeffe
7 Jun 2019

"Violet Speedwell is one of the "surplus women", the stark label applied to those whose potential husbands were killed in the First World War"

England, 1932. Violet Speedwell is one of the "surplus women", the stark label applied to those whose potential husbands were killed in the First World War. Violet has lost both her elder brother and her fiance, and faces a life of dreary duty tending to her elderly and demanding mother. Determined to strike out on her own, she moves to Winchester, takes a job as a secretary and falls in with the "broderers", the group of women who embroider kneelers for the Cathedral.

Reviews

4 stars out of 5
Katy Guest
4 Oct 2019

"Tracy Chevalier excels at writing about the ordinary human characters who find themselves accidentally at the centre of history."

Tracy Chevalier excels at writing about the ordinary human characters who find themselves accidentally at the centre of history... There are times when the stiff fabric of Chevalier’s research shows through the delicate stitches of plot and character, but she creates a convincing picture of the period. Most impressive are the portraits of individual women like Violet’s mother, made bitter and furious by grief, who either pursue their freedom in small acts of disobedience, or quietly stitch their loss into comfort and beauty for generations to come, leaving no mark or memorial other than a neat set of initials sewn into a cushion.

4 stars out of 5
2 Oct 2019

"The prose is stunning without any showboating; the historical detail beautifully interwoven with a light touch, and the cumulative effect is more powerful than immediately evident"

A Single Thread is not a fast-paced, plot-driven tour de force but therein lies its charm; the novel is a subtle, delicate portrayal of a life of quiet power. The prose is stunning without any showboating; the historical detail beautifully interwoven with a light touch, and the cumulative effect is more powerful than immediately evident. This novel will stay with you for a long time, and may be Chevalier’s best yet.

4 stars out of 5
Nick Rennison
15 Sep 2019

"a novel that movingly examines hidden depths beneath quiet exteriors."

In A Single ThreadTracy Chevalier shows once again her ability to illuminate ordinary lives and to pay attention to those most often ignored...

 a novel that movingly examines hidden depths beneath quiet exteriors.

4 stars out of 5
Hephzibah Anderson
15 Sep 2019

"[the embroidery] add[s] up to something dazzling, Chevalier couldn’t have picked a more satisfying metaphor"

[1932 is] a time and a place that is perfectly suited to Chevalier’s meticulous scene-setting, gentle pacing and gimlet eye for hidden hurts and secret longings. As for the embroidery, with its repetitive stitches that slowly, almost inconspicuously add up to something dazzling, she couldn’t have picked a more satisfying metaphor. After all, Violet and her fellow broderers are women building not only themselves, but the very idea of independent single womanhood in a world that does its best to ignore their existence.

4 stars out of 5
9 Sep 2019

"I tore through A Single Thread, rooting for Violet to find her happy ever after in this beautifully written, utterly immersive novel."

Violet Speedwell is a ‘surplus woman’ left without matrimonial prospects after the First World War, until she leaves her home and tyrannical mother to forge a new life in Winchester. When she joins the cathedral embroiderers, she finds friendships and meets a man who’s also been left bereft by war. I tore through A Single Thread, rooting for Violet to find her happy ever after in this beautifully written, utterly immersive novel.

4 stars out of 5
5 Sep 2019

"Writing with quiet but devastating empathy, Tracy Chevalier pinpoints Violet’s predicament as a single woman,"

Having lost her fiance to war, Violet Speedwell is a surplus woman — one of the thousands of spinsters left in financial and emotional limbo after the slaughter of World War I...

Her life takes an unexpected turn when she joins the Winchester Cathedral Broderers, a group of women creating glorious embroideries on kneelers provided for the comfort of worshippers.

Writing with quiet but devastating empathy, Tracy Chevalier pinpoints Violet’s predicament as a single woman, her unexpected emotional crisis and her struggle to give her life depth and meaning. I loved it.