Violet is 38.
The First World War took everything from her. Her brother, her fiancé – and her future. She is now considered a ‘surplus woman’.
But Violet is also fiercely independent and determined. Escaping her suffocating mother, she moves to Winchester to start a new life –a change that will require courage, resilience and acts of quiet rebellion. And when whispers of another world war surface, she must live with a secret that could change everything…
I was aware of the generation of women robbed of husbands or partners by the First World War, but I hadn’t thought about their lives looking after dependent relations or surviving on a pittance. Moving to Winchester, her job as a typist helps Violet to be independent but the low pay barely covers her rent in a ladies’ boarding house, leaving very little to pay for food. Despite this she makes new friends, becoming one of the “broderers” making kneelers for the cathedral. Although totally inexperienced she is guided by the designer and organiser of the project, Louisa Pesel. Louisa was the real President of the Embroiderers’ Guild and the kneelers can still be seen in Winchester Cathedral today.
Violet also meets two of the bell ringers and one of them, Arthur, invites her to watch the team from inside the tower. These two projects and the relationships she develops put meaning into her life, so she is scarcely aware of the approaching doom as they hear of Hitler’s rise to power. The story deals with the topics of same sex partners and the dependence women have on a patriarchal society but it also includes descriptions of the medieval streets of Winchester and the beautiful surrounding countryside. The story is a slow burner about a brave, intelligent woman finding fulfilment and a future. I enjoyed reading about a unique part of the 20th century and how different characters adapted to change.
A Single Thread at Amazon UK
An introduction to Burning Bright another book by Tracy Chevalier