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.
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.
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.
[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.
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.
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.
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.