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A Single Thread

A Novel
Narrated by: Fenella Woolgar
Length: 10 hrs and 51 mins
Categories: Fiction, Historical
4.5 out of 5 stars (316 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

"A buoyant tale about the path to acceptance and joy--beginning, like all journeys, with one brave step." (People)

"The best-selling novelist has done a masterful job of depicting the circumstances of a generation of women we seldom think about: the mothers, sisters, wives and fiances of men lost in World War I, whose job it was to remember those lost but not forgotten." (Associated Press)

One of the New York Public Library's Best of 2019 | Most Anticipated Books of Fall 2019 (Time) | Best Books of Fall (PopSugar) | 5 Books Not to Miss (USA Today) | 50 Best Books of the Year (Good Housekeeping) | One of the New York Post's Fall Novels Everyone's Talking About | 13 Fall Best New Books Written by Women (Parade) | One of the New York Times Book Review's New & Noteworthy | One of Chicago Sun Times' "Books Not to Miss" | One of Real Simple's Best Books of 2019 So Far

1932. After the Great War took both her beloved brother and her fiancé, Violet Speedwell has become a "surplus woman," one of a generation doomed to a life of spinsterhood after the war killed so many young men. Yet Violet cannot reconcile herself to a life spent caring for her grieving, embittered mother. After countless meals of boiled eggs and dry toast, she saves enough to move out of her mother's place and into the town of Winchester, home to one of England's grandest cathedrals. There, Violet is drawn into a society of broderers - women who embroider kneelers for the Cathedral, carrying on a centuries-long tradition of bringing comfort to worshippers.

Violet finds support and community in the group, fulfillment in the work they create, and even a growing friendship with the vivacious Gilda. But when forces threaten her new independence and another war appears on the horizon, Violet must fight to put down roots in a place where women aren't expected to grow. Told in Chevalier's glorious prose, A Single Thread is a timeless story of friendship, love, and a woman crafting her own life. 

©2019 Tracy Chevalier (P)2019 Penguin Audio

Critic Reviews

"Set in the 1930s, Chevalier's new novel follows a woman whose fiance died in Wold War I and who finds a sense of community among the guild of needlewomen embroidering kneelers for the pews at one of Britain's great cathedrals." (New York Times Book Review)

"In times of grave discomfort, Tracy Chevalier offers a welcome respite...with manners and chortle-inducing humor that would make Jane Austen proud." (USA Today)

"The plot, and Chevalier's delicate handling of Violet's love interest, is seamless...A Single Thread is a fascinating story about building something long-lasting by beginning with one small stich." (NPR)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Changing Lives

Tracy Chevalier is an impressive historical-fiction writer and this latest novel gives lots of details about Winchester Cathedral, the ringing of bells in a cathedral and the embroidery work for the cushions and kneelers. The changing life of Violet is interwoven with this history. I love historical-fiction and especially those books written by Tracy Chevalier.

7 of 7 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars

Wonderful historical fiction

This is a poignant, yet hopeful, story set in 1932. The affects of WWI are still being felt, especially for women of a certain age who lost the opportunities for marriage and family. Violet Speedwell, the main character, is one of these surplus women. The book beautifully shows how she finds a life for herself (breaking away from an absolute horror of a mother) when she is befriended by and joins a group of boiderers at Winchester Catherdral. The author obviously did a lot of research, and the information about broiderers, as well as about bell ringers, was very realistic. My only reservation, and the reason for a 4-star rating on story, is a subplot involving a strange man ( I don't want to give anything away ). It didn't fit in with the story, and, frankly, wasn't necessary. I loved this narrator, lovely voice and beautiful diction.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Ellen
  • Brookfield, CT, United States
  • 10-16-19

Lovely story

I really enjoyed the story . Loved descriptions of the embroidery done for the cathedral and the history behind it. Good character development - I felt like I could see them and relate to them as they went about their lives. Excellent narrator.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Quiet, lyrical, powerful

Exceptional research informs this quietly stunning book depicting a spinster's journey from passivity to courageous independence. A book to be savored.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Historical fiction

Really well read story, another good one by Tracey Chevalier
If you have an interest I’m people’s lives, architecture and embroidery you’ll enjoy this.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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Very British culture

I was hooked after the first 2 chapters. Narrator made the book superbly listenable. Enjoyed.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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Bittersweet & Compelling

A charming story - sensitively written - bittersweet and compelling - well narrated. Thumbs up all round.

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    3 out of 5 stars

Ok

Not as engaging as most of her other books (the best are Girl with the Pearl Earring & Remarkable Creatures), and the sexism rankles a bit. No consequences for a rapist (yes he's a rapist whether or not a particular attempt “succeeded“) was certainly the status quo of the time (an egregious circumstance which shamefully continues to this day), however the book features progressive ideas about lesbianism for the era and a protagonist who chooses to become an unwed mother, so there's no good reason for such an issue to be glossed over. Still, it is well-written, like all of Chevalier's work.

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Lovely story

This story was lovely and even in this day and age relevant. It’s a story about acceptance, love and family.
My only criticism is the performer and the way she read the story. But overall a great read!

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Delightful Story

This is a lovely story. Deals with quite modern issues of stigma and prejudice in a delicate way. A reminder the issues have been around a long time. Thoroughly enjoyable.