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October book club - A Single Thread

(22 Posts)
janiceanne Wed 23-Oct-19 16:10:54

Thank you Gransnet - I have received a copy of 'A Single Thread' by Tracy Chevalier, one of my very favourite authors. Really looking forward to this book and I shall start on it tonight.

Marydoll Wed 23-Oct-19 16:22:41

I received mine today, what a lovely surprise, as I wasn't expecting to be selected!

Twingo Wed 23-Oct-19 17:18:28

I received a lovely hardback copy today and assume I won it here! Very pleased to be picked, thanks very much!

GrannieAnnie123 Thu 24-Oct-19 16:26:56

I received my TracyChevalier “ A single Thread” out of the blue! Also delighted and can’t wait to start!

Cherrytree59 Thu 24-Oct-19 17:14:23

Received my October book.
Thank you ?

GrannyBear Thu 24-Oct-19 18:45:19

I’ve just received a copy of ‘A Single Thread’. What a lovely surprise! Thank you Gransnet.
Once I’ve read and reviewed it, I’ll be passing my book on to another Gransnetter, with whom I have become friends through the Gransnet Book Club.

CariGransnet (GNHQ) Mon 28-Oct-19 15:30:05

Excellent - you beat us to it. Do leave your questions etc for the author on here if you received a copy - we will send them over when you've had chance to read

Twingo Wed 30-Oct-19 10:35:33

Has anyone checked out Tracy Chevalier's website yet? There's some interesting background information on the story and some lovely photos, which really help to picture everything!

Daisyboodle Thu 31-Oct-19 10:50:22

This is a gentle paced and descriptive novel which I really enjoyed. Set in a society set up for marriage the story of the "surplus women" written in such a moving manner has focused on a chapter of our history that isn't often talked about, and made such an interesting subject matter in this novel. The constant financial worrying, starvation, boredom and necessity of rooming in a boarding house and the day to day minutiae of simply struggling to exist really brought home the reality of the times to me. And the expectations of her role and status - to look after ageing parents, to give up her independence. And of course the physical threat of being a single woman - her hiking holiday illustrated the additional concerns of being a lone female. And how important financial independence was/is to women. The female characters striving to build their independence as single women, whether by choice of not, in a society governed by social niceties and constraints. The need to leave a mark of her own, something tangible, Violet joins the broderers in a bid to leave her mark on the world. I'd like to ask Tracy Chevalier whether she was inspired by a particular "surplus woman" she had met or read about or did the story start in Winchester with the cushions and wondering who might have embroidered them and why?

pappillion Fri 01-Nov-19 10:32:13

I received my book yesterday & delighted with it, thank you so much for my prize.
It has brightened up my day.

GrannyBear Fri 01-Nov-19 20:08:45

“A Single Thread” is easy to read. The book gently develops the story of Violet Speedwell as she moves away from Southhampton and her ’impossible’ Mother who comes from an era ‘where daughters were dutiful and deferential to their mothers’ (page 17) to begin an independent life in Winchester.

The year is 1932 and Violet is 38 years old. She is a ‘surplus woman’, one of the many thousands of females whose boyfriends, fiancés or husbands went off to War and did not return. In Winchester, Violet faces loneliness, financial stringency and constant scrutiny of her ring finger!

Shortly after her arrival, she visits Winchester Cathedral and happens upon a Service for the Presentation of Embroideries. Violet joins the Winchester Cathedral Broderers, a group of women who maintain the traditions established in mediaeval times to embroider cushions and kneelers for the Cathedral. The Group is led by Miss Louisa Pesel, who somewhat reluctantly accepts Violet as a new member. Through the Broderers, Violet begins to make friends, develop new interests and establish her independence. However, it is not all plain sailing and as the story develops, Violet has to cope with maintaining her dignity as a single woman, malicious gossip, a stalker and falling (secretly) in love with a married man.

I enjoyed the realistic portrayal of everyday life in the 1930s, both from the perspectives of the activities taking place and the attitudes expressed. The book does not shy away from dealing with some of the major issues of the day, including homophobia, male chauvinism and the looming threat of another War following the appointment of Hitler as Chancellor of Germany.

Violet is a strong woman but in some ways I found the ending disappointing and almost too stereotypical (I don’t want to give away any spoilers!!)

In this book, Tracey Chevalier cleverly blends historical fact with fiction. Between 1931 and 1936, Louisa Pesel worked with hundreds of volunteers to embroider kneelers and cushions for Winchester Cathedral (my thanks to Twingo for the link to the Tracey Chevalier website and to my Gransnet ‘Book Buddy’ for alerting me to Graham Norton’s interview with Tracey on Radio 2 last Saturday, 26 October - it may still be available on BBC iPlayer).

I would like to ask Tracey whether she has any plans for a sequel to “A Single Thread”? I feel she has left enough scope for a follow-up novel to explore Violet’s future.

janiceanne Sat 02-Nov-19 14:19:57

I thoroughly enjoyed this book.
I loved the story - evocative and brilliant with lots of interesting facts about the embroidery and about Winchester Cathedral.
Tracy Chevalier never lets her readers down with her amazing research and eye for detail.
Wonderful dust-jacket and apt book title.
I would highly recommend this novel.

Marydoll Mon 04-Nov-19 08:58:28

I have just finished this novel at 6am, when I couldn't sleep!
It took me a wee while to get into it, but I thoroughly enjoyed it.
It was a gentle distraction from my usually reading material of gory, crime novels.

Tracey Chevalier is skilled at weaving (pun wink ) fact and fiction. She cleverly wove the different strands of the story into the novel, without it seeming contrived.
I could actually visualise the different cushions in the cathedral and remembered my own feeble attempts at embroidery! Her research is impeccable.
I found the part about the swaztikas in the embroidery interesting, as I had read something similar a while a go.

It also portrayed a snapshop of society and attitudes at the time, highlighting the number of unmarried women left after the Great War, prejudice towards unmarried mothers and same sex relationships.

It also got me thinking about my own parents and how the gap between the wars wasn't actually that long and the fear that another war was imminent as Hitler became more powerful.

I think a sequel would be great, finding out what happened to the characters once war was declared.
There must be lots of material to write about.
What happened to the characters once war was declared, how did the war affect their lives, did the embroiderers keep sewing or did they channel their skills into the war effort, did Violet move to the country for safety?

Thank you for my copy and I'm happy to post the novel to anyone who would like to read it.

blueberry1 Wed 06-Nov-19 12:01:37

Thank you for my copy of "A Single Thread" by Tracy Chevalier.
Although not my usual cup of tea,I found this book easy to read,well written and interesting.Focusing on the Surplus Women after WW1, it shows how limited and uninspiring the lives of these women were. Low paid jobs and caring for elderly parents seemed to be their main choices in life.
Violet slowly learns to stand up for herself and make the most of new friendships and her embroidery passion.I enjoyed the descriptions of the kneelers and cushions as I also love embroidery.
A gently unfolding story,well told.

NonnaW Wed 06-Nov-19 14:50:03

I thoroughly enjoyed my copy of ‘A Single Thread’ . Such a gentle but gripping story, giving an insight not only into the lives of unmarried (surplus) women between the wars, but also into embroidery, bellringing, and Cathedral life. Makes one grateful not to have lived in those times, when every day was a struggle for an independent minded single lady, the lack of money and the weight of disapproval at anything considered out of the norm. I had not read any Tracy Chevalier books before but will now hunt some out.

GrannieAnnie123 Wed 06-Nov-19 17:30:40

Just finished my free copy! Thankyou.
Found this book fascinating from the portrayal of the unmarried woman in that time and her options to fit in with a then very rigid society
Loved the description of the needlework and embroidery stitches tied in with the history of the cathedral. Learnt about
Bell ringing as well!
The ending was sweet and at last she was happy!
A good read!

shandi6570 Wed 13-Nov-19 15:50:49

Thank you for this freebie, I have just finished reading it, a gentle and easy read, I always enjoy the way Tracy Chevalier writes her stories and this one was no exception. The story line flowed along easily incorporating many different threads along the way. Set in the 1930s it made me realise how times have changed, a different world to nowadays.
As Marydoll said, a follow up novel would be interesting, so many different options to follow. I would particularly like to see what happens to Violet and her daughter Iris in the future, being an unmarried mother must have been hard in those days.
I look forward to the next book by Tracy Chevalier, whether a follow up or something entirely different.

granjan15 Wed 13-Nov-19 23:37:41

Historical fiction is not my usual genre of book but I enjoyed this gently unfolding story. A clever combination of well researched facts and fiction. An easy read.

Mazamet07 Thu 14-Nov-19 06:21:14

I apologise for the late posting but the book arrived just as I was leaving to go on holiday. I was thrilled to receive it, as Tracy Chevalier is one of my favourite authors. For me, she writes gently, but she does not shy away from including the main social issues of the day. As a fellow embroiderer I read with pleasure her descriptions of the needlework and followed Violet's story with interest. I would very much like to know where Tracy gets her inspiration for a new book, and how she tackles the research.

CariGransnet (GNHQ) Wed 27-Nov-19 15:00:13

A reminder to all our winners to leave their thoughts and questions for the author on this thread - we'd like to send them off asap. Thanks

Cherrytree59 Sat 07-Dec-19 12:33:04

Events have rather taken over, but I have now read and enjoyed this book very much.
I have decided to keep hold of my copy for the moment rather than passing it on as usually do with books that I have read.

Come spring and summer of 2020, I would like to explore some of the places mentioned by the author and visit the cathedral and to look at kneeling cushions and 'graffiti'.
I will take my my copy with me for reference.

I have have obviously passed the date for GN forwarding questions to the author.

I will look out for the Author answering the questions posed by the other book club winners.

SeaWatcher Mon 09-Dec-19 10:24:02

This book awaited me when I got back from holiday at the end of October. I really enjoyed reading it. It's written in a gentle style (I know a number of other reviewers have also used the word 'gentle' but it really is the best word I can think of to describe the style in which it was written) with some very good use of language. The historical information given about the lives of 'surplus' women at that time is very interesting as is all the information we learn, whilst reading it, about people's lives then : the ongoing emotional pain caused by the loss of family members who died in the war, working and accommodation issues for single women, the work of bell ringing, etc. In many ways life was very different for women then but some of the issues are still very relevant today.