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A Single Thread

3.72  ·  Rating details ·  13,179 ratings  ·  2,101 reviews
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 nake
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published September 5th 2019 by The Borough Press (first published September 2019)
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Mary Ellen I believe that he loved her, but that her condition made him lonely. Their marriage had certainly changed, but in those days he would have stayed no m…moreI believe that he loved her, but that her condition made him lonely. Their marriage had certainly changed, but in those days he would have stayed no matter what. Divorce or desertion would not have been an option.(less)
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Average rating 3.72  · 
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 ·  13,179 ratings  ·  2,101 reviews

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In A Single Thread, Tracy Chevalier paints a richly detailed picture of history and social change in England in the inter war years, set in the beautiful location of Winchester, with its magnificent cathedral. In a well researched character driven story, it is 1932, 38 year old Violet Speedwell is deemed to be one of the 'surplus' women, a consequence of the huge numbers of men lost in WW1, women who are both pitied and feared. She is still feeling the loss of her fiance and her brother in the w ...more
Angela M
Violet inadvertently walks into the Winchester Cathedral during a ceremony for the “broderers” and is taken with the embroidered kneelers. I was not and the first part of the book was a trudge for me. I was bored. I kept reading, though, because I admired how Violet asserted her independence and moves away from her constantly complaining mother. I felt for her - alone and barely making enough for room and breakfast, frequently skipping a meal and still after years is grieving the loss of her fia ...more
May 28, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Despite having neither the temperament nor the talent to actively engage in the fiber arts, I have always had an interest in them. My forays into the world of knitting and needlepoint have resulted in frustration and, I sheepishly admit, swearing like a sailor. We have a world renowned art museum here which has many fine examples on display so I content myself with viewing textiles, tapestries and so on rather than actively taking part. In this novel, embroidery (needlepoint) provides a spinster ...more
Jul 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In a world that increasingly appears to have gone mad this book is a soothing, calming balm! This story is understated, gentle and about a bye gone age when societies rules and foibles are usually strictly obeyed. Tracy Chevalier is an author who can create a picture, a character and an atmosphere with the appearance of effortlessness and that takes great skill and understanding of your craft. The main character is Violet Speedwell and the era is the 1930’s, the setting is principally beautiful ...more
Emer (A Little Haze)
This was my first time reading a novel by Tracy Chevalier and I have a somewhat mixed reaction. That's not to say the book is not enjoyable, because it really is. But something was a little bit missing for me and by about the 2/3 mark I was really ready for the book to be over.

A Single Thread follows the character of Violet Speedwell in 1930s England. Violet is in her late thirties and is what is known at the time as a "surplus woman" meaning that she is unmarried and most likely without any pr
Diane S ☔
DNF at 50%. Feel awful because this is my monthly read with Esil and Angela. This for me is one of those books that one neither hates nor likes.. It is just stagnant. If you like embroidery or hell ringers you might have better luck. it is missing a spark, just too much yada yada.
"A story is like building a chapel; A novel is a cathedral." (Rosario Ferre)

Tracy Chevalier centers A Single Thread around the majesty of the Cathedral in Winchester with its mighty presence and its abundant history. Winchester Cathedral becomes the focal point of what has occured in the past in its community and what is transpiring in early May of 1932.

Winchester still bears the scars of World War I in which loss sits heavily at the elbow of family upon family. Young men left the township in dr
Jul 21, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: d-a-buddy-reads
3.25 stars

A Single Thread had the ingredients for the kind of novel I usually love, but unfortunately I found it quite flat in the delivery. The story is set in the early 1930s, and focuses on Violet. Violet is 37 years old, and thinks of herself as a “surplus woman”. She wasn’t able to marry because so many men were killed during WWI, and her options in life are seriously limited by her sex and marital status. The story focuses on a year when Violet leaves her mother’s home and goes to live in
Jul 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It's 1932, and because so many young men have lost their lives in the Great War, there is a whole generation of unmarried females, unfortunately referred to as "surplus women;" Violet at age 38 is one of them. She has lost both her fiance and brother in the war, and decides to get a job in the next town to escape living with her cantankerous mother. She gets involved with a group of women who embroider cushions for the church, and learns far more that just embroidery stitches through her associa ...more
Sep 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: giveaways
The fabric of Violet Speedwell’s life begins to feel worn. It is 1932 and as a 38 year-old woman, under the controlling needs of her negative,widowed mother, Violet finally decides to take her life into her own hands and moves from Southampton to Winchester—at the disappointment of brother Tom and sister-in-law Evelyn.

World War I has left her bereft after the loss of her eldest brother, George, and fiancé Laurence. With the recent death of her beloved father, Violet feels one loss too many. With
Ivana - Diary of Difference
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When the team from LoveReading UK contacted me regarding A Single Thread, all I knew was that I loved Girl With A Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier and would therefore read any other book she writes.

A Single Thread follows the life of Violet, during the year 1932, a few years after the First World War. Violet has lost her brother and fiance in the war and is still learning to cope. She is labelled as a ”surplus woman” by the society, a woman that i
Aug 25, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley
Not for the first time have I read a book by this author and been intrigued by the subject matter but underwhelmed by the story. This one was no exception. The plight of the ‘surplus women’ of the years after WWI has been fictionalised before and to better effect. The embroidery project at Winchester Cathedral and the whole rigmarole of bell ringing were intriguing, though, and I am glad to have read this book for those alone, especially since I discovered at the end that the main character in t ...more
Julie Christine
Britain lost an estimated two percent of its population during World War I. It sounds insignificant, but that loss represented a generation of men who would have otherwise been wage-earners, husbands and fathers. In the wake of their loss was a generation of women who were left without fathers, brothers, husbands and co-parents. Tracy Chevalier's elegant, delicate and deeply moving A Single Thread traces one of the many who were known as "surplus women" and how their pattern of loss wove into Br ...more
The author convincingly depicts the details of daily life in the 1930s and, in particular, the challenges faced by women like Violet struggling to survive on a meagre income (for example, making a choice between a hot meal, more coal on the fire or a treat such as a trip to the cinema) and facing open prejudice at work because of their gender and unmarried status, whether from necessity or inclination. For example, the unquestioned assumption that they will at some point either give up work to m ...more
Britta Böhler
Read for the Booktube Prize 2020 (Octafinals). Nice, readable commercial fiction. But nothing to write home about.
I would like to bow my head to Tracy Chevalier with respect. This is a lovely book about a young woman who loses her brother and her fiance to the Great War. What is a woman's role without a man? In the UK between WWI and WWII, it was uncharted territory. At 38, Violet decides to live her life independently and unconventionally, partly because of the grief of losing her brother and fiance and partly because there is a scarcity of eligible men after the war. I just read City of Girls by Elizabeth ...more
James Cross
May 29, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Now, I'm not the target audience for this book. This book is set in the early 1930's about an unmarried thirty something woman who has suffered great losses, who is a typist and the book heavily features cathedrals, embroidery, bell ringing and holidays. I am a gay married man with a child, who likes eating twix chocolate bars and playing Mario games. Hey, we're the same age.

But. Having never read a Tracy Chevalier book I wasn't aware that her writing could wash away my scepticism within about 2
Jul 25, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I suppose that it is my own fault for imagining that a book about embroidery would be nonstop entertainment, but admittedly I was interested in the historical aspects. Put simply I found this book to be a little boring. The author is very detailed even about trivial events and sometimes I felt that I was simply reading Wikipedia vomited up on the page, some of the conversations are just overtly used for this purpose so don't flow naturally at all. Violet is a low-key feminist that I want to chee ...more
Jul 10, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
England, 1932. Violet loses her fiancé and brother to the Great War and now her father. She feels that she needs a change. She needs to move out from living with her mother even if it means only 12 miles up the road.

In Winchester, she supports herself as a typist. She also joins a group of women – broderers. They embroider cushions and kneelers for the cathedral. There, she finds friendship and fulfillment. But I didn’t feel it. I love the idea of a group of friends creating something artistic,
Joan Happel
Aug 21, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Violet Speedwell is one of England’s “surplus women”. That generation of women whose husbands and would-be-husbands never returned from WWI, leaving countless females who were forced to alter their expectations and take up the mantle of earning a living, caring for their aging parents and accepting their spinsterhood. Violet has decided leave her embittered mother’s home to eke out a life for herself working as a typist in Winchester. One day, while visiting Winchester Cathedral she encounters o ...more
Aug 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was a wonderful read and a time period Ive rarely read about. The context fell into place for me when I realised my grandparents would have been about 40 at the time of this novel. A time when women were expected to marry and have children, but where the male population had fallen by 2 million during the Great War and when Britain was still recovering from one war, while Hitler rose to prominence as the Chancellor on the way to the next. It was terribly difficult to earn a living and live i ...more
Sep 12, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really love Tracy Chevalier – she just has a gift of taking you effortlessly to another time and place. This wasn’t a page turner, or an edge of your seat thriller, but I loved every page. It was just so nice, easy, comfortable and I was just immersed into another world. Loved the characters as well. This book is about a woman who is trying to be independent and make her own way after WWI. Violet joins an embroidery project at Winchester Cathedral which I actually became quite interested in al ...more
Oct 22, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition

If you want to learn about all different kinds of embroidery stitches this is the book for you.
I should have ‘gathered’ that from the title “A Single Thread”.
You will also learn a great deal about cathedral bell ringing and the sad life of a very wishy-washy main character Violet.
Chevalier’s best since Falling Angels; possibly her best ever, though I’d have to reread Angels to decide for sure – it’s got the Victorian graveyard setting so sure to lure me in. The subject matter of the 1930s-set A Single Thread sounds like it could easily be parochial and twee: embroidering kneeling cushions and ringing church bells in an English cathedral town? That Chevalier makes such old-fashioned hobbies fascinating is a testament to her rising talent for incorporating copious research ...more
Robert Sheard
Oct 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have been a fan of Tracy Chevalier's novels ever since Girl with a Pearl Earring. And I've read most of her others (I may have missed one or two), and this new one is one of my favorites. It's not experimental or reimagining the novel form. It's not going out of its way to sound "literary." What it does, however, is tell a moving story of one woman's efforts to carve out a life of her own after suffering devastating losses in World War I. I genuinely loved this novel.
Mar 18, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-club
A wonderful story centered around Winchester Cathedral and the embroidery of its kneelers and seat cushions.

Taking place after The Great War, with rumblings of new political unrest in Europe, the story revolves around Violet Speedwell, a 38 year old “surplus woman”, unmarried and forced to live with her bitter, grieving mother. Violet eventually takes a job in Winchester to escape her mother, and becomes involved with the Broderers, a group of women dedicated to making needlepoint kneelers and
Sep 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels-set-in-uk
Poignant novel set in 1930s WINCHESTER

Violet Speedwell is a woman in her later 30s who is trying to make her way in the world, at a time when women had very little freedom and when men were scarce following on from WW1, when so many had been killed. Her existence, as it was for many unmarried women, was pretty much hand-to-mouth, as women took jobs whilst waiting for a marriage proposal to knock on the door. If they didn’t come, what then?

Women were expected to care for their parents, they were
Tracey Allen at Carpe Librum
Nothing much happens in A Single Thread by Tracy Chevalier, so why did I fall in love with it? It's not the first time this has happened either. Stoner by John Williams is the slow moving story of an ordinary man and it was such an exquisite portrait of his life that it instantly became an all-time favourite of mine.

Violet Speedwell is the protagonist in A Single Thread and in 1932 she is reeling following the painful loss of her brother and fiance in WWI. Violet decides to leave home and try to
A Single Thread by Tracy Chevalier was a beautifully written and quiet historical fiction novel set in England after The Great War. Violet Speedwell is a young woman who has lost her fiancé and her beloved brother in the war as so many young women at that time; their future as "spinsters" predicted because of the large numbers of mass casualties of so many young men during the Great War. Violet, resisting the norm, chose to leave her mother's home and go to the city and work as a typist for an i ...more
Joanna Park
Nov 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I absolutely love this author! She’s one of my go to author’s for historical fiction as you know you’re going to get a fantastic read. A Single Thread is no exception and I so enjoyed this compelling, absorbing read that I will be recommending to everyone.

Firstly the historical detail in this book is brilliant, especially as it contained information I didn’t know that much about. I was lucky enough to hear this author speak at The Cheltenham Literature Festival and it was fascinating to learn ho
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19 October 1962 in Washington, DC. Youngest of 3 children. Father was a photographer for The Washington Post.

Nerdy. Spent a lot of time lying on my bed reading. Favorite authors back then: Laura Ingalls Wilder, Madeleine L’Engle, Zilpha Keatley Snyder, Joan Aiken, Susan Cooper, Lloyd Alexander. Book I would have taken to a desert island: Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery.


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