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A Single Thread


A Single Thread

Violet Speedwell is a “surplus woman” who has been relegated to the position of caregiver for her mother. This is not the life she imagined for herself. She would be married with a house and a family of her own if the Great War had not taken her fiancé and older brother. When her father passes away, she is left alone with her mother. Mrs. Speedwell channels her grief over losing a son and a husband toward her only living daughter. Violet bears the full brunt of her sadness and guilt, all the while longing to be as far away as she can living the life she wants to live.

When Violet can take no more, she applies for a typist’s position in Winchester and moves a mere 12 miles away. With a job and a room at a boarding house, she leaps into a new world. While her life is far from glamorous, it is her own, even if it means eating beans on toast for dinner most nights and skipping the occasional lunch to pay rent.

"A SINGLE THREAD is a soft-spoken story with so much heart. The characters are lovely; they are people you want to know more about even after you have turned the last page."

Winchester Cathedral is the centerpiece of the community and a frequent place for Violet to contemplate her life choices thus far. During one visit, she witnesses the service for the cathedral’s embroiderers, the “broderers” as they are called by the locals, and instantly becomes fascinated by them and their work to beautify the cathedral through kneelers and seat covers. She is so enthralled, in fact, that she lies her way into the group. Never having set a proper stitch in her life, she regrets the lie at first but convinces herself that she is only doing what her younger brother encouraged her to do --- meet new people and make friends. She trudges on, determined to make something that will live on in the cathedral. Her new friend, Gilda, becomes a lifeline for Violet, teaching her the proper stitches and encouraging the freedom she has craved for so long.

Violet also finds something she thought was lost to her forever --- love. However, the man she is in love with is already married, although the marriage may not be fulfilling by any account. Their meetings take place in and around the cathedral. While these encounters are innocent, the feelings they have for each other are not, which has become obvious to others in the local community.

With threats of a second World War and an ailing mother, the life that Violet built for herself begins to fade before her. Moving back home to care for her mother brings everything into focus, and with the help of new friends in Winchester, she finds a way to keep the lifestyle she now craves while keeping her family happy. Violet is not so willing to give up after all.

As with most Tracy Chevalier novels, I read this book in one sitting. I fell in love with the characters and the work of the broderers so quickly that I could not put it down. Violet is marvelous and easy to identify with. The life she built in Winchester, while not always exciting, is captivating, and I found myself cheering her on at every step. Honestly, I wanted to know that her embroidery work would endure.

A SINGLE THREAD is a soft-spoken story with so much heart. The characters are lovely; they are people you want to know more about even after you have turned the last page. They all have their secrets, their fears and their faults. But they come together for each other when needed, and those threads make for a delightful read.

Reviewed by Amy Gwiazdowski on October 4, 2019

A Single Thread
by Tracy Chevalier