I wanted to read this book because it was recommended by someone whose judgement I usually trust. I was very disappointed. I read elsewhere that Tracy Chevalier spends six months researching a novel before she starts writing. To my mind, research for a novel (as opposed to non-fiction), should be done and then put away; the information is there to draw on and to prevent errors. In this novel, the research *is* the story. We get a complete guided tour of Winchester cathedral, instructions on how to make a tapestry kneeler for a church and lessons in bell ringing. When Dorothy L Sayers wrote The Nine Tailors (listed here as a source), she did a huge amount of research into bell ringing, really mastered it, yet this erudition never intrudes; it’s just necessary background. A Single Thread is, frankly, dull and at one point I nearly gave up on it.
The biggest problem with the book is the main character, Violet. She’s thirty-eight, her brother and her fiancé have been killed in the First World War and she lives at home with her ghastly mother. At last, she breaks away, taking her typing skills from Southampton to Winchester, where she has a go at making a new life for herself, a life for one of the ‘surplus women’ of the time. I found her not only uninteresting but unbelievable; I just couldn’t see things working out as they did at that period of time. This is a great shame but no matter what I think, the book will probably be a bestseller anyway, on the strength of the author’s name.
A Single Thread was published in September and I read it thanks to NetGalley.