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A Single Thread by Tracy Chevalier - Review

Sunday, January 1, 2023

This book was the December choice for my book club and I have to admit I was a bit apprehensive about it. But I requested it at the library and started it anyway, and while I thought the beginning was a bit slow I did enjoy the book. So did most of the book club, although we generally felt the ending was maybe a bit hackneyed. 

So the book is set in 1932 and the heroine is Violet. She is thirty-eight years old and has just moved from Southampton to Winchester. to work as a typist for an insurance company. In Southampton she has left behind her elderly mother, who is cold and smothering, and her brother and his wife and children. Violet's father has recently died, and she lost her fiance and her older brother in World War One. Violet is one of the women after WWI for whom there was a dearth of men, for whom spinsterhood seemed inevitable. 

She works with two young women who look at her sideways for not having a spouse. One of them is engaged and soon leaves. Violet attends a service at Winchester cathedral in which new embroidered items are being sanctified for use within the church. Although initially put off by the woman who turns her away, Violet then joins the group and learns to embroider herself. She makes new friends through the group and meets a bellringer by the name of Arthur.

Violet takes herself on a walking holiday in the nearby countryside, and meets Arthur again. The two begin an emotional affair which consumes Violet and which changes the course of her life. When her mother falls ill, it is assumed that Violet will return to Southampton to care for her, but Violet has too much independence to do that. 

I generally liked the book, and I liked the embroidery focus as I'm a crafter myself. My book club generally liked it, too, although a few of us felt the end was a bit too pat, a bit too happily ever after. I liked the austerity of the era and on how poor Violet was, supporting herself, but how determined she was to do that. It's an interesting era, the inter-war period, and one that I enjoy. I'm giving this four out of five. 

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