"A buoyant tale about the path to acceptance and joy--beginning, like all journeys, with one brave step."--People
"The best-selling novelist has done a masterful job of depicting the circumstances of a generation of women we seldom think about: the mothers, sisters, wives and fiances of men lost in World War I, whose job it was to remember those lost but not forgotten."--Associated Press
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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.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Can art be a feminist vehicle for change? That’s the idea at the heart of this historical drama from Tracy Chevalier (Girl with a Pearl Earring). In 1932, Violet Speedwell joins an embroidery group after she moves to a new town, finding fulfillment and purpose she hasn’t felt since her fiancé’s death in World War I. Chevalier’s moving writing emphasizes the value of community and friendship—Violet’s growing closeness with her new friend Gilda is just as vital to her rebirth as her embrace of her own creativity. Inspirational and emotional, the novel makes us want to find our own new creative outlets, too.
Chevalier (Girl with a Pearl Earring) celebrates the embroiderers of Winchester Cathedral in this appealing story of a 38-year-old spinster who learns needlecraft from real-life embroidery pioneer Louisa Pesel. In 1932, Violet Speedwell is what newspapers of the day call a surplus woman: unmarried and likely to remain so. Working as a typist in Winchester, Violet visits the cathedral, where she admires the intricate canvas embroidery on the kneelers, cushions, and other accessories. She joins the Winchester Cathedral Broderers Group and, after an unpromising start, becomes proficient under the mentorship of group founder Louisa Pesel. A fellow embroiderer introduces Violet to Arthur Knight, a 60-year-old married bell-ringer who, like Violet, has suffered the death of a loved one. Arthur protects Violet from a stalker and takes her to the bell tower to show her the ropes. Violet's confidence grows as she learns to handle a needle, her mother, and her own desires. Chevalier excels at detailing the creative process, humanizing historical figures and capturing everyday life. With its bittersweet romance and gentle pace, Chevalier's latest may be less powerful than her best novels, but it vividly and meticulously shows how vision, teamwork, and persistence raise needlecraft from routine stitching to an inspirational and liberating art.
Customer ReviewsSee All
A Single Thread
I enjoyed reading this book so much! What a wonderful way to discover life after WWI for so many women. Imagine losing your loved ones and coming to terms with how your life stretches before you very different than planned. For women today to hear “there were so few men” after the war, it wouldn’t affect them as did in post war 20’s and 30’s. There just weren’t options for women.
Learning about the broaderers was fascinating to me. I also appreciated learning about bell-ringing, who knew?
Most of all, I loved the story between Violet and Arthur. A very unconventional love that was heartbreaking and uplifting.
Of course, over time, I will imagine a happier ending and probably forget the proper ending! Age does that to me, ever changing things through my “rose coloured glasses”.
A Single Thread