Skip to content
Translate page
Change text size
More +

[Review] A Single Thread by Tracy Chevalier

by The Borrowers Book Group Kesgrave Library

The Borrowers Book Group at Kesgrave Library share their thoughts on A Single Thread, written by award-winning and Sunday Times Bestselling historical fiction novelist Tracy Chevalier.

About A Single Thread

It is 1932, and the losses of the First World War are still keenly felt. Violet Speedwell, mourning for both her fiancé 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.

Borrow a copy of A Single Thread on our catalogue.

Book group review

This is an enjoyable, beautifully written book, easy to read with its gentle, flowing style. It is very descriptive in the appearance and behaviour of the characters in the story as well as the setting which is Winchester Cathedral and its surroundings.

The central theme of the book is inspired by the women volunteers who, led by Louisa Pesel, embroidered cushions and kneelers for the Choir stalls and Presbytery seats with the fictionalised love story of Violet Speedwell and Arthur the bell-ringer woven through. Set in 1932, it is very evocative of the times with two million ‘surplus women’ left behind after the First World War. A whole generation grieving, embittered by loss.

From loneliness and boredom, Violet’s life is transformed by her involvement with the embroiderers. A strong character, she defies the expectations of the time for ‘the unmarried daughter’ to remain at home to look after her ageing, difficult mother. In seeking her independence we see the real poverty that women suffered and the attitudes to female staff in the workplace. The variety of characters both male and female, also reflect the prejudices of the time and how woman to woman relationships were frowned upon.

Recommendation: A lovely book which subtly captures so many issues of the time. And you learn a lot about bell-ringing!

Love books? Want to discuss them in a reading group? Find out how to get started →