Tracy Chevalier has turned her hand to more recent history in this novel, which is set in the 1930s. She’s written a story of social and domestic history as colourful and rich in detail as one of the kneelers her heroine sets out to create.
Violet Speedwell is a spinster of a certain age living independently in Winchester. She’s left the family home (and her overbearing mother) after her father has died, and we’re quickly given her family background: like so many of her generation, one of her brothers and her fiancé were lost in the Great War. Whilst Violet is steadfastly making a living as a typist in an insurance office (note that the girls had to share a heater between them, whilst their supervisor had one to himself), her loneliness leads to a chance encounter of the Cathedral Broderers and Violet’s life begins to transform.
Violet’s courage shines through at different points in the book. She’s not prepared to give up her life to accommodate others and understands that to help others she can’t lose herself in the process. Above all, this is a tale about being true to yourself.
At times, this book reminded me of others written between the wars – A Fortnight in September by RC Sherriff, Marianna by Monica Dickens and poignantly, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day in Tracy Chevalier’s description of just how Violet’s don’t quite stretch to a hot meal each day.
With thanks to Netgalley for an advance copy of this book
A Single Thread is published on 5th September 2019