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A Single Thread

3.91  ·  Rating details ·  351 ratings  ·  181 reviews
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 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

Kindle Edition, 352 pages
Published September 5th 2019 by The Borough Press
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3.91  · 
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 ·  351 ratings  ·  181 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
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
Aug 25, 2019 rated it liked it
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
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
Apr 14, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I do love some good historical fiction. They’re my comfort reads - perfect whatever the weather, whatever my mood, and however much time I have to devote to one. I especially like ones that happen in slightly out of the box time periods - familiar and unknown all at once. Between the wars is ripe for the picking, but is often forgotten for the more exciting stories that lay either side of it, despite it being a time of great social change. So, I was particularly keen to get my hands on this one. ...more
Aug 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
A Single thread Is the first book from Tracy Chevalier that I have read, and I love historical fiction so I happy when my request was granted to get a copy of this book.
It’s 1932, Victoria Speedwell is 38 years old, unmarried and suffering the losses of her fiancé and brother in the war. Like so many others at that time. She is deemed a ‘surplus’ woman after the losses of men and married women fear her. She decides that she wants to be more independent and doesn’t want to live with her mother an
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
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
Val Robson
Aug 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley
A Single Thread follows the life of Violet Speedwell in 1932 as she attempts to escape the clutches of her negative and demanding mother. Violet, at 38 and single, is one of the ‘surplus women’ left when there are two million less men than women in the country due to the losses and injuries in WW1.

As with all the Tracey Chevalier novels that I have read there is an historical theme. This book focuses on the broderers and bellringers in Winchester Cathedral. The broderers are a group who do canva
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
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 02, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Violet Speedwell is one of many 'surplus women' since the Great War has killed so many young men. She herself lost both her fiance and her brother and is still mourning their loss. Fed up with living with her difficult and forever complaining mother, she moves to Winchester, where she becomes involved with a group of 'Broderes' who are embroidering the kneelers for the cathedral. She also befriends some of the bell-ringers and becomes interested in that as well.
She has to fight hard to keep her
Laura Hill
May 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Writing: 4/5 Characters: 3.5/5 Story: 3.5/5 Historical depiction: 5/5

In 1933, Violet Speedwell is one of the many “surplus” women — women for whom there simply are no men, WWI having depleted the stores. This quiet, slow-paced, and yet utterly engrossing novel follows the 38-year old Violet as she slowly makes an independent life for herself without the availability of traditional options.

Leaving her home in Southampton and her embittered and critical mother, she takes a low-paid typing job and
Susan Johnson
I won this on a Goodreads giveaway so thanks to GR and Viking publishers. I really wanted to read this so I was quite excited. I have liked several of Chevalier's books very much so I was really anticipating it. Unfortunately I was disappointed.

This is a dull book. It's OK but dull. It concerns a woman who is struggling after the end of WWI. Her brother and her fiance have both been killed in the War and there are very few single men after so many have died. She is suffering under her mother's
Aug 13, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've enjoyed all of Tracy Chevalier's books so far; this one however resonated slightly less with me than some of the others. It could be that the themes of embroidering kneelers for the church and the intricacies of bell ringing didn't appeal to me so much but that's not to say they won't appeal to other readers. On the other hand, the main character's determination to seek out an independent life for herself in what was still a very patriarchal society really caught my imagination. It's hard t ...more
Jillian Doherty
Feb 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book ~ I love this book!!

Violet’s fierce, and quietly cultivated determination are as vibrant with illustrated as a single woman pretrade in this time.

We don’t often read about a character so well drawn, but she amongst an incredible cast of characters with their own brilliant and well developed personalities create a historical fiction that only Tracy Chevalier could write!

Well comped to The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, for its delightful and innate charm; with literar
What makes this book a wonderfully enjoyable read is the authors' talent at taking subjects I have absolutely no interest in and weaving such a lovely story around them that I am absorbed and entranced throughout.
Her writing is outstanding and the book is a delight to read.
It tells the story of a very ordinary young woman, Violet, who has had the misfortune to become one of the thousands of "surplus" women following World War One. In an era when a woman’s worth was measured by the quality of hu
Sam Glasbrenner
I won this in a Goodreads giveaway and cannot wait to read it!
Aug 18, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: giveaways, fiction
I was interested in reading this book for a couple of reasons, first, I once belonged to a group who stitched church kneelers like the ones described in this novel and second, I have been fascinated with bellringing ever since I read The Nine Tailors (the best mystery I've ever read) by Dorothy L. Sayers. My favorite parts of A Single Thread were the parts about the embroidery, bellringing, and Louisa Pesel, the only character based on a real person. Louisa Pesel was only a secondary character i ...more
Jul 21, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aug 07, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: arcs
Thanks to NetGalley and The Borough Press/HarperCollins UK for providing an eARC in exchange for an honest review.

A few years ago I used to impatiently wait for every new Tracy Chevalier book, reading them as soon as they came out. After missing some of her newest releases I jumped at the chance to read her newest book when I saw it was up for request. Sadly, I didn’t love it as much as I wanted to.

Set in the 1930s, A single thread tells the story of Violet Speedwell, a 38 years old woman who af
Kimberly Mussell
Aug 21, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

What a great story! I stayed up late a few nights due to this novel. I’m hoping we see these characters again! I can see more to this story.
One character I was unsure of was Jack Wells and how he fit into the story.
Looking forward to read more from Tracy Chevalier.

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Angela, Diane and Esil discuss 28 7 Jul 21, 2019 07:45AM  
A Single Thread 1 3 Jul 13, 2019 04:17PM  
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.