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A Single Thread [9780008153816]

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From the globally bestselling author of Girl with a Pearl Earring.

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.

Violet falls in with the broderers, a disparate group of women charged with embroidering kneelers for the Cathedral, and is soon entwined in their lives and their secrets. As the almost unthinkable threat of a second Great War appears on the horizon Violet collects a few secrets of her own that could just change everything...

Warm, vivid and beautifully orchestrated, A Single Thread reveals one of our finest modern writers at the peak of her powers.


Tracy Chevalier is the author of ten novels, including At the Edge of the Orchard, Remarkable Creatures and Girl with a Pearl Earring, an international bestseller that has sold over five million copies and won the Barnes and Noble Discover Award. Born in Washington DC, in 1984 she moved to London, where she lives with her husband and son.

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Tracy Chevalier
The Borough Press
800 Grams
  • 4
    A Single Thread

    Posted by M Turner on 2nd Jun 2020

    A fascinating read that is a mixture of history and fiction. The research into the broderers at Winchester Cathedral was accurate and informative. 4 stars because the ending is a bit weak - the story needs to be continued!

  • 4
    Charming and moving

    Posted by Lucy H on 27th Sep 2019

    This is a charming book which takes the reader into the unexpectedly fascinating worlds of 1930s church (or rather cathedral) embroidery, and bell-ringing.
    Violet, a lonely, bereaved, no-longer-young woman leaves home to start a new job in Winchester, away from her overbearing mother. She meets a diverse set of people there, and forges a small life for herself.
    I loved this book. Being an embroiderer (secular, not ecclesiastical) myself, and having lived in Winchester for several years as a student and when I started my first "proper" job, I found Violet's situation struck many parallels with me.
    Tracy Chevalier is a skilled writer, bringing seemingly dusty old facts out into the daylight and creating a rich and vibrant story with them. 1930s Winchester is beautifully evoked, as is Violet's new home and workplace. Her status as a "surplus" woman as a result of her fiance's death in World War 1 is handled sympathetically.
    At times I was reminded of George Gissing's "The Odd Women" and "The Third Miss Symons" by FM Mayer, both written about "surplus" women - without husbands, without jobs, unable to make their "natural" way in the world simply by virtue of being unmarried.
    Violet was rather too knowing at times but the writing was skilful and affectionate, allowing the reader to get a feel for the hopeless situation so many young women found themselves in as a result of the Great War.
    The developing relationships with her colleagues, her embroidery ladies and the bellringers gave the story a direction that Violet's own life was lacking.
    On reading the notes at the end, I was delighted to discover that some of the characters were based on real people. I would read it again, which is not always the case. And it made me want to pick up some of my neglected embroideries and get on with those.

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