A Single Thread by Tracy Chevalier

Set in Winchester, this is a glorious and heart warming tale of Violet making a new life for herself. The First World War took both her brother and fiancé’s lives, and shortly after her father’s too, leaving the Speedwell family home in a state of constant mourning. With Mrs Speedwell having always been a harsh mother to Violet, Violet feels there’s no reason for her to stay home with the constant reminders of their losses and her mother’s continuous snipping at everything she does.

The move from Southampton to Winchester, however highlights more complications than just the distance to family suppers. Having always lived at home, Violet’s pay had previously only been for her own savings and luxuries, now it had to cover rent and food too! Ever determined to make her new adventure succeed, Violet makes do, albeit sacrifices have had to be made.

The other rather dire aspect of her situation is the looks and comments she gets when others notice the lack of ring on her finger. Chevalier captures the post war atmosphere delicately and insightfully, reminding readers of the in-balance of men and women during this period. Whilst some women saw Violet as a threat, others pitied her. I really felt for her, sadly Violet had got to the age where she was no longer being readily pursued by a lot of men, and whilst she didn’t seem overly bothered by this, the idea of being tagged as a spinster… that was hard.

Violet has felt her calling though… from the cathedral, not from God, but from the broderers. A chance encounter has ignited something within Violet, the urge to make her mark and embroider her own kneeler seems of great importance to her. There’s a wonderful quote within this book of how healing embroidering is, because it quietens your thoughts and makes you focus solely on the task. Whilst Chevalier doesn’t overly exaggerate the effect it has had on Violet, it was clear to me how much Violet had grown in both strength and independence.

Circling back to men, it seems Violet has attracted some attention from a rather vulgar man; and Violet, herself, finds her heart thumping for a man she can never have. How will it end – in happiness or tears?

This story offers the reader so much to reflect on: love, friendship, new beginnings, unusual relationships, and the effects of both a previous war and an imminent one. For me, my favourite aspect of this plot was the embroidering, I found it fascinating. The energy and passion these women showed for stitching perfect kneeler covers, cushion covers and seat covers, warmed my heart.

I’m sure you can gather from this review that I absolutely adored this book, Chevalier adds so much detail in every page whilst also ensuring that it didn’t take away from the momentum of the story. There was a wonderful balance of charm and thrill within this plot and I can’t stress to you enough how much I loved this book.

A Single Thread is out now in hardback and eBook versions from The Borough Press.

Until next time, Chloé x


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