Reviewed by Jean Arboleda
A SINGLE THREAD
By Tracy Chevalier
336 pages. Viking.
Historical fiction, when done well, is always a fascinating read. Bestselling author Tracy Chevalier is a gifted writer in this field, and her latest novel A Single Thread is sure to delight audiences.
Set in the wake of World War I, A Single Thread is a vivid portrait of the plight of “surplus women”—an entire generation of women resigned to unmarried life after the death of so many young men in the war. For the rest of society, they are to be pitied, or ridiculed. Violet Speedwell is one such woman, living alone with her resentful, difficult mother. Still recovering from the loss of her older brother, her father, and her fiancé, Violet yearns for independence and fulfillment, and manages to find a job as a typist in Winchester. During one fateful visit to the grand Winchester Cathedral, she is drawn to the beautiful, intricately embroidered kneelers, and the women who carry on a centuries-old tradition.
The novel takes great pains to set the scene. Chevalier’s detailed descriptions of the art of embroidery and the craftsmanship of the bellringers draw you in and immerse you completely in this historical period. While it can be slightly dragging at times, it’s not a topic that you would hear about in history class, giving you a fresh perspective of this point in time.
Though life as an independent unmarried woman is difficult, Violet is slowly able to build the life she desires in Winchester. As she finds friendship and community in the broderers, fulfillment in the work, and even a budding romance with a married bellringer, she starts to slowly embrace an existence that defies traditional expectations. In a society where a woman only has value in a familial setting, women like Violet must fight to define their own life. Touching on taboo topics such as same sex relationships and single mothers, A Single Thread is about the unrelenting resilience and courage of women seeking to make a mark on a world that underestimates them.
A Single Thread is available at Fully Booked branches and Fully Booked Online.
Jean will try anything once. She has, at different points in her life, worked in government, interviewed international celebrities, and been the social media manager for several brands. On any given day, she would rather be reading, preferably surrounded by puppies. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram @jeanarboleda.
[Thoughts and views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Fully Booked. Then again, we love our authors anyway.]