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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)

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

A Best Book of 2019 with The New York Public Library | USA Today | Real Simple | Good Housekeeping | Chicago Sun Times | Time | PopSugar | The New York Post | Parade 

"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 listeners say about A Single Thread

Average Customer Ratings
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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Well-written but Not for Everyone

Beautifully written and thoughtful. But, the plot is slow to develop and it might be too "quiet" for some.

This is the story of Violet, who has lost a brother and fiance to WWI, and tries to make her way in the world as a single woman (a spinster) but it has not been easy: she is close to her brother Tom and his family but her mother, a controlling, caustic and self-centered woman, makes life for Violet a living hell. So, Violet leaves her home to live and work in Winchester. There, she is attracted to the beautiful Winchester Cathedral and is drawn into a group of women who embroider cushions for the church.

Slowly, Violet's social circle enlarges a bit and even includes a secret love affair. Eventually, she learns to live life on her terms.

The narrator does a nice job and her enunciation is perfect.

This novel is not for everyone but if you like slow but well-written literary fiction, you'll like this one.

30 people found this helpful

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Hidden Delight

Purchased on a lark because nothing else seemed appealing at the time, the book quietly became a true pleasure. Ordinary lives of ordinary people became quite extraordinary in the hands of the author. Coupled with excellent narration, every minute was a pleasure.

27 people found this helpful

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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.

24 people found this helpful

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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.

17 people found this helpful

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A Pleasant Surprise - A Lovely Journey

When I first started listening I thought, Oh dear, a book about spinsters and embroidery - and expected it to be a tedious listen. How wrong I was! It is a book about relationships, love and loss, and fighting for independence and one’s place in the world. It grabbed me and held me and the excellent narration of this gently told story made me want to keep listening. I actually was sad when the book was over. The growth of the heroine from timidity to strength and confidence made me want to cheer. This book was a lovely journey that I didn’t want to end.

10 people found this helpful

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Enthralling!

The story and characters in this book are nothing short of captivating. Imagine my surprise, though, when I decided to look up Winchester Cathedral to see what it looked like, and I found that the embroiderers and their handiwork were real. And there was a photo of their fearless, exotic leader, Louisa Pesel. Now, I need to visit Winchester Cathedral myself! The author's methods of showing us this history and the fascinating details of Winchester Cathedral and the surrounding villages are truly inventive. They carry us through the story without getting bogged down in detail. Plus, the insight into the lives of the "surplus women" is thought-provoking and heartbreaking, at times. A very well-done novel that manages to entertain and inform, all at once.

10 people found this helpful

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idealist outcome with bad decisions at end

Story started well then ended poorly with poor decisions by main character. Essentially the main character feels that the only actual meaning and joy in her life is a a baby, and then suddenly all is well and complete. This is a sad and empty view, as children bring both great joy and great pain, and a meaningful life can be full and rich even without children. It is a bit ironic as the book starts out as a story about a woman forging her own way after the tragedy of war, but ends up on the path that a women's joy is really best found in a child (spoiler) even if without a husband. Or it is found in a lesbian relationship (subplot). Disappointed.

9 people found this helpful

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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.

9 people found this helpful

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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.

5 people found this helpful

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A Touching Tribute to Love and Acceptance

I was moved to tears at the sensitivity of this writer to subjects that are controversial even today. The book held my interest throughout because of her handling of the emotional undercurrent that existed. A fine read.

3 people found this helpful