Thursday 5 September 2019

A Single Thread by Tracy Chevalier @Tracy_Chevalier BLOG TOUR @fictionpubteam #ASingleThread @BoroughPress

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

Warm, vivid and beautifully orchestrated, A Single Thread reveals one of our finest modern writers at the peak of her powers.

A Single Thread by Tracy Chevalier is published today; 5 September 2019 in hardback by Borough Press. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review and invited me to take part on this Blog Tour.

There are a few authors who never ever fail to delight me, no matter what the subject of their story, and Tracy Chevalier is one of those authors. I was delighted when I heard that A Single Thread was due to be published this year, and I have to say that the hardback edition is truly a thing of beauty. The cover image is striking and perfectly depicts the wonderful story held within it.

Violet Speedwell is now one of my favourite fictional characters. From the opening chapter, when the reader is introduced to her as she visits Winchester Cathedral, I was smitten. Violet is nothing like me; we have no interests in common; we live in different eras, our relationship status is opposite, yet I was totally bewitched by her. Violet became a friend as I read about her, and I'd love to be her friend in real life too.

Set in the early 1930s, Violet is what was known as one of the 'surplus women'. A harsh name for the women who where either bereaved during the war; losing husbands or fiances, or have been left 'on the shelf' due to the lack of menfolk returning from the battlefields. To be a single woman approaching forty years of age in those days was not a great thing. Violet lives at home with her overpowering and often cruel mother who is also grieving the loss of her son during the war.

Violet does have a job, she works for an Insurance Company and she is determined that she will no longer allow herself to fester away under the beady eye of her mother. She applies for a transfer to the Winchester office and soon finds herself living in a stark, damp room in a boarding house for women of a similar status. I would be easy to think that Violet has jumped from the frying pan into the fire, but she is made of stern stuff and becomes determined to make her meagre wages last.

It is during that visit to Winchester Cathedral, mentioned at the beginning of this review, that Violet discovers a group of women who embroider kneelers and cushions for the Cathedral. Led by Louisa Pesel, this is a strange and mixed bunch of women with one shared interest. Violet becomes determined to become a broderer too and is soon taken under the wing of outspoken Gilda.

The reader follows Violet as she learns the intricate stitches that make up the exquisite patterns designed by Louisa. This author brings each character to life so well and I truly felt as though I was sitting amongst them; listening to their chatter; seeking the praise of Louisa and creating friendships.

A Single Thread is not just about the friendship of women. Violent also experiences the anguish of a love affair that cannot go anywhere. The author's ability to depict the pain and longing felt by both Violet and Arthur, and also by Gilda and her partner is beautifully and tenderly done. There is heartbreak and loss along the way, with a massive dose of the ins and outs of bellringing too!

This is a novel of love and loss, highlighting the difficulties faced during that era by anyone who may have been considered different, or strange, or even evil. The historical aspects are wonderfully woven, with real life characters written in amongst the fictional ones. Winchester, and especially the Cathedral is an evocative and quite sensual setting for this bold, intelligent and quite wonderful novel.

Tracy is the author of 10 novels, including the international bestseller GIRL WITH A PEARL EARRING, which has sold over 5 million copies and been made into an Oscar-nominated film starring Scarlett Johansson and Colin Firth. 

American by birth, British by geography, she lives in London with her husband and son. 
Her latest novel, A SINGLE THREAD, is set in and around Winchester Cathedral in the 1930s, and involves embroidery, bellringing, and an adventurous heroine. 

Her website will tell you more about her and her books.

Photo: Jonathan Drori

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