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Embroidery and bell ringing.

A Single Thread - Tracy Chevalier

This is my seventh book by Tracy Chevalier and I have enjoyed them all. My favourite is still Fallen Angels, about the Suffragette movement, but I enjoyed learning about the Winchester Broderers and the tradition of bell ringing.
I must admit, I did skim some of the detailed descriptions of the embroidery in the cathedral kneelers and cushions, but it was fascinating to learn about the intensive work that went into producing them, back in the 1930s.


Violet Speedwell is unmarried, earning her the unenviable title of a 'surplus woman'. She is one of many ladies who lost husbands, lovers and fiances on the battle fields of WW1. The chances of finding a partner now are slim and she spends her days working at a mundane job for an insurance company. She requests a transfer from her home town to Winchester as living with her miserable mother is becoming impossible. Now, however, she must take digs and struggle to make ends meet. It's not a particularly joyful situation but she makes the best of it, until a chance encounter results in her meeting up with the Broderers and she makes new friends and even a potential love interest.


This is a slow burning book, but kept my interest to the end. My book group gave it between 3.5 and 4.5 stars and generally enjoyed it. Googling some of the patterns and designs on the cushions was fascinating and was a highlight of our discussion. Images of the cathedral and the shattered stained glass window that was subsequently put back together higglidy piggildy, were also interesting.


The narrative highlighted the position of these 'surplus women' and covered the issues of love, loss. and the general position of single women of the era.
The narration in the audiobook, by Fenella Woolgar, was excellent and I forgot I was being read to, always a good sign.