A Single Thread

A Single Thread

by Tracy Chevalier

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Overview

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

An immersive, moving story of a woman coming into her own at the dawn of the Second World War, from internationally bestselling author Tracy Chevalier

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 Chicago Sun Times' "Books Not to Miss"


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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780525558255
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 09/17/2019
Sold by: Penguin Group
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 229
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

Tracy Chevalier is the New York Times bestselling author of nine previous novels, including Girl with a Pearl Earring, which has been translated into thirty-nine languages and made into an Oscar-nominated film. Born and raised in Washington, DC, she lives in London with her husband and son.

Hometown:

London, England

Date of Birth:

October 19, 1962

Place of Birth:

Washington, D.C.

Education:

B.A. in English, Oberlin College, 1984; M.A. in creative writing, University of East Anglia, 1994

Read an Excerpt

1

"Shhh!"

Violet Speedwell frowned. She did not need shushing; she had not said anything.

The shusher, an officious woman sporting a helmet of gray hair, had planted herself squarely in the archway that led into the choir, Violet's favorite part of Winchester Cathedral. The choir was right in the center of the building-the nave extending one way, the presbytery and retrochoir the other, the north and south transepts' short arms fanning out on either side to complete the cross of the whole structure. The other parts of the cathedral had their drawbacks: The nave was enormous, the aisles drafty, the transepts dark, the chapels too reverential, the retrochoir lonely. But the choir had a lower ceiling and carved wood stalls that made the space feel on a more human scale. It was luxurious but not too grand.

Violet peeked over the usher's shoulder. She had only wanted to step in for a moment to look. The choir stalls of seats and benches and the adjacent presbytery seats seemed to be filled mostly with women-far more than she would expect on a Thursday afternoon. There must be a special service for something. It was the 19th of May 1932; Saint Dunstan's Day, Dunstan being the patron saint of goldsmiths, known for famously fending off the Devil with a pair of tongs. But that was unlikely to draw so many Winchester women.

She studied the congregants she could see. Women always studied other women, and did so far more critically than men ever did. Men didn't notice the run in their stocking, the lipstick on their teeth, the dated, outgrown haircut, the skirt that pulled unflatteringly across the hips, the paste earrings that were a touch too gaudy. Violet registered every flaw, and knew every flaw that was being noted about her. She could provide a list herself: hair too flat and neither one color nor another; sloping shoulders fashionable back in Victorian times; eyes so deep set you could barely see their blue; nose tending to red if she was too hot or had even a sip of sherry. She did not need anyone, male or female, to point out her shortcomings.

Like the usher guarding them, the women in the choir and presbytery were mostly older than Violet. All wore hats, and most had coats draped over their shoulders. Though it was a reasonable day outside, inside the cathedral it was still chilly, as churches and cathedrals always seemed to be, even in high summer. All that stone did not absorb warmth, and kept worshippers alert and a little uncomfortable, as if it did not do to relax too much during the important business of worshipping God. If God were an architect, she wondered, would He be an Old Testament architect of flagstone or a New Testament one of soft furnishings?

They began to sing now-"All Ye Who Seek a Rest Above"-rather like an army, regimental, with a clear sense of the importance of the group. For it was a group; Violet could see that. An invisible web ran among the women, binding them fast to their common cause, whatever that might be. There seemed to be a line of command too: Two women sitting in one of the front stall benches in the choir were clearly leaders. One was smiling, one frowning. The frowner was looking around from one line of the hymn to the next, as if ticking off a list in her head of who was there and who was not, who was singing boldly and who faintly, who would need admonishing afterward about wandering attention and who would be praised in some indirect, condescending manner. It felt just like being back at school assembly.

"Who are-"

"Shhh!" The usher's frown deepened. "You will have to wait." Her voice was far louder than Violet's mild query had been; a few women in the closest seats turned their heads. This incensed the usher even more. "This is the Presentation of Embroideries," she hissed. "Tourists are not allowed."

Violet knew such types, who guarded the gates with a ferocity well beyond what the position required. This woman would simper at deans and bishops and treat everyone else like peasants.

Their standoff was interrupted by an older man approaching along the side aisle from the empty retrochoir at the eastern end of the cathedral. Violet turned to look at him, grateful for the interruption. She noted his white hair and mustache and his stride, which, though purposeful, lacked the vigor of youth, and found herself making the calculation she did with most men. He was in his late fifties or early sixties. Minus the eighteen years since 1914, he would have been in his early forties when the Great War began. Probably he hadn't fought, or at least not till later, when younger recruits were running low. Perhaps he had a son who had fought.

The usher stiffened as he drew near, ready to defend her territory from another invader. But the man passed them with barely a glance, and trotted down the stairs to the south transept. Was he leaving, or would he turn in to the small Fishermen's Chapel, where Izaak Walton was buried? It was where Violet had been heading before her curiosity over the special service waylaid her.

The usher moved away from the archway for a moment to peer down after the man. Violet took the opportunity to slip inside and sit down in the closest empty seat, just as the dean stepped up to the pulpit in the middle of the choir aisle to her left and announced, "The Lord be with you."

"And with Thy spirit," the women around her replied in the measured tempo so familiar from church services.

"Let us pray."

As Violet bowed her head along with the others, she felt a finger poke at her shoulder. She ignored it; surely the usher would not interrupt a prayer.

"Almighty God, who of old didst command that Thy sanctuary be adorned with works of beauty and cunning craftsmanship, for the hallowing of Thy name and the refreshing of men's souls, vouchsafe, we beseech Thee, to accept these offerings at our hands, and grant that we may ever be consecrated to Thy service; for Jesus Christ's sake. Amen."

Violet looked around. Like the choir's, the presbytery chairs were turned inward rather than forward toward the high altar. Across from her were ranks of women in facing seats, and behind them, a stone parclose decorated with tracery in the form of arches and curlicues. On the top of the screen sat stone mortuary chests containing the bones of bishops and kings and queens-unfortunately jumbled together during the Civil War when Cromwell's men apparently opened the chests and threw the bones about. During a tour that Violet dutifully took after moving to Winchester, the guide had told her the soldiers threw femurs at the Great West Window and destroyed the stained glass. Once Charles II had been restored to the throne in 1660 it too had been restored, using saved shards of glass, but it was remade higgledy-piggledy, with little attempt to re-create the biblical scenes originally depicted. Yet it looked orderly, as did the mortuary chests-so tidy and certain, resting above her head now, as if they had always been and always would be there. This building might look permanent, but parts of it had been taken apart and put back together many times.

It was impossible to imagine that such bad behavior could have taken place in so solid a building, where they were now obediently reciting the Lord's Prayer. But then, it had been impossible to imagine that solid old Britain would go to war with Germany and send so many men off to die. Afterward the country had been put back together like the Great West Window-defiant and superficially repaired, but the damage had been done.

"In the faith of Jesus Christ we dedicate these gifts to the glory of God." As he spoke the dean gestured toward the high altar at the far end of the presbytery. Violet craned her neck to see what gifts he was referring to, then stifled a laugh. Stacked in even, solemn rows on the steps before the altar were dozens of hassocks.

She should not find them funny, she knew. Kneelers were a serious business. Violet had always been grateful for the rectangular leather kneelers the size of picture books at Saint Michael's, the church the Speedwells attended in Southampton. Though worn and compacted into thin hard boards by years of pressing knees, they were at least not as cold as the stone floor. She had never thought they might require a benediction, however. And yet that appeared to be what this special service was for.

She glanced at her watch: She had left the office to buy a typewriter ribbon, with the tacit understanding that she might stop en route for a coffee. Instead of coffee Violet had intended to visit the Fishermen's Chapel in the cathedral. Her late father had been a keen fisherman and kept a copy of Izaak Walton's The Compleat Angler on his bedside table-though she had never seen him read it. Now, though, she wondered if kneelers were worth being late for.

The prayer over, she felt another sharp tap on her shoulder. The service might take longer than a coffee or a pilgrimage to Walton, but she could not bear to be bullied by this woman. "I've joined the service," she muttered before the usher could speak.

The woman frowned. "You are a broderer? I haven't seen you at the meetings."

Violet had never heard the word and was not entirely sure what it meant. "I'm new," she improvised.

"Well, this is a service for those who have already contributed. You will have to wait for the next service in October, once you have actually taken part and put in some work."

If the usher hadn't then glanced down at Violet's left hand, she might have accepted that the service was not for her and departed. She should have done anyway-gone for the typewriter ribbon and returned to the office in a timely fashion. Besides, services were often dull, even in a cathedral as magnificent as Winchester's. But she hated the judgment that the usher was forming from her not wearing a wedding ring. She couldn't help it: She glanced in return at the usher's left hand. A ring, of course.

She took a breath to give herself courage. "I was told I could come." Her heart was pounding, as it often did when she rebelled, whether on a large or a small scale. When she'd told her mother six months before that she was moving to Winchester, for instance, her heart had beat so hard and fast that she'd thought it would punch a hole through her chest. Thirty-eight years old and I am still afraid, she thought.

The usher's frown deepened. "Who told you that?"

Violet gestured toward one of the fur-wearing women in the front choir stall bench.

"Mrs. Biggins said you could come?" For the first time, the usher's tone faltered.

"Mabel, shhh!" Now others were shushing the usher, who turned scarlet. After one last scowl at Violet, she stepped back to her place guarding the archway.

The dean was midway through his address. "This magnificent cathedral has been blessed with many adornments over the centuries," he was saying, "whether in stone or wood, metal or glass. The effect has been to lift the spirits of those who come to worship, and to remind them of the glory of God here on Earth as in Heaven.

"To this abundance can now be added the kneelers you see before the altar-the start of an ambitious project to bring color and comfort to those who come to services in the choir and presbytery. The Winchester Cathedral Broderers group was formed by Miss Louisa Pesel at my invitation last year. The word broderer is taken from the Worshipful Company of Broderers-a guild of embroiderers established in medieval times. This new group of cathedral broderers reflects the noble history of this craft, brought forth by Miss Pesel to unite the past and present. Many of its members are here today. You have clearly been very busy with your needles, embroidering these splendid hassocks for the presbytery, and soon to commence on cushions for the seats and benches in the choir. Not only will we see glorious colors and patterns amongst the more sober wood and stone, but worshippers will find it easier to kneel as they pray." He paused, with a smile that indicated he was about to make a small, deanlike joke. "The cushions may well make it easier for congregants to sit and listen to my sermons."

There was a sedate collective chuckle.

As he went on, Violet glanced at the woman next to her, who had laughed more openly. Her face was thin and angular, like a long isosceles triangle had unfolded between her temples and chin, and her brown hair was shingled into another triangle whose points stuck straight out from her cheeks. She turned to Violet with eager dark eyes, as if the glance were the calling card she had been waiting for. "I haven't seen you before," she whispered. "Are you from the Monday group? Is one of yours up there?"

"Ah-no."

"Not done yet? I managed to finish mine last week-just before the cutoff. Had to run clear across town to get it to them. Miss Pesel and Mrs. Biggins were that strict about it. Handed it straight to Miss Pesel herself."

A woman in the seat in front of them turned her head as if listening, and Violet's neighbor went quiet. A minute later she began again, more softly. "Are you working on a kneeler?"

Violet shook her head.

"What, your stitching wasn't good enough?" The woman made a sympathetic moue. "Mine was returned to me three times before they were satisfied! Have they put you on hanking instead? Or straightening the cupboards? The cupboards always need that, but it's awfully dull. Or maybe you keep records for them. I'll bet that's what you do." She glanced at Violet's hands as if searching for telltale signs of inky fingers. Of course she would also be looking for the ring, just as Violet had already noted that she didn't wear one. "I said no straightaway to record keeping. I do enough of that the rest of the week."

The woman ahead of them turned around. "Shhh!"

Violet and her neighbor smiled at each other. It felt good to have a partner in crime, albeit one who was a little eager.

By the time the service dragged to its conclusion with the end of the dean's address, another hymn ("O Holy Lord, Content to Dwell"), and more blessings, Violet was very late and had to rush away, her thin-faced neighbor calling out her name-"Gilda Hill!"-after her. She ran across the Outer Close, a patch of green surrounding the cathedral, and up the High Street to Warren's stationers, then hurried with the typewriter ribbon back to Southern Counties Insurance, arriving flushed and out of breath.

Reading Group Guide

1. We are first introduced to Violet by her frown, as with resolute rebelliousness she inserts herself into a church service she does not belong in. How did you feel about this introduction? Was it apt? Do you feel it was important for the novel to start in this way? How did it shape your reading of her character and of the book?

2. Violet describes herself as one of the “surplus women”: one of a generation of women left unmarried or widowed by World War I, whom society doesn’t quite know what to do with. She spends her life after the war searching for meaning and purpose—and finds her journey constantly impeded by the constraints and restrictions imposed upon unmarried women at the time. Do unmarried women face similar struggles today? In what ways do you feel society has progressed—and in what ways has it not?

3. While Evelyn, Violet’s sister-in-law, is married, she is not without burdens herself: Evelyn is expected not to have a hair out of place at all times. When she becomes pregnant again, we see this “perfection” begin to wear at the seams. Do you think an undue burden was placed on married women at the time to maintain the “perfect” household? How about the expectations placed on married women and/or mothers now? Has the idea of a “perfect” home changed? Does the burden of creating it—or the blame for failing to do so—still rest on women?

4. One of Violet’s steps to gain independence is to leave home—which means leaving her mother alone. When Mrs. Speedwell falls ill, Violet comes home to take care of her and is expected, as the unmarried daughter, to continue to be her mother’s caretaker. Violet is able to come up with a creative solution which works well for the family as well as her friends—but the burden to do so fell entirely on her. What did you think of this being solely Violet’s responsibility? How did you feel about Tom’s response? Should he have stepped in to help or should he have offered a solution himself?

5. The women of the novel rebel in various ways—from Gilda refusing to bow to societal pressure to Miss Pesel’s subversive fylfots to Violet setting out to live an independent life despite her family’s expectations. How do you think the term “feminism” applies to the women of A Single Thread? In what ways do you feel we can learn from them today?

6. The fylfots Miss Pesel and Violet stitch closely resemble Nazi swastikas, as Arthur points out in anger. Miss Pesel explains that she stitches these symbols as her own act of rebellion—reclaiming the symbol for its original intent rather than bending to the Nazis’ definition. How did you feel about this interpretation of “rebellion” as reclamation versus other acts of defiance, like marches and protests? Consider today’s day and age: What do you think about reclaiming symbols or words at the risk of causing societal upsets?

7. A Single Thread takes place in the gap between two wars, with our characters still mourning the losses they faced in World War I as World War II looms unknowingly over their heads. Only Arthur appears to be aware that Hitler may soon rise to dangerous power. What challenges did the writer face in knowing more than her characters about the future? How does it feel, as a reader, knowing more than the characters?

8. Miss Pesel often refers to needlework as therapeutic, saying, “When there is an upset, there is nothing like needlework to bring calm and focus.” One of Violet’s painting instructors spoke similarly of the soothing effects of painting: “It will be a relief to you too, to remain in the moment, not to dwell.” These days, crafting has become popular again, with more knitters, quilters, and embroiderers than ever. Why do you think this is? Is it being used therapeutically?

9. Throughout the novel, we are presented with different understandings of moral behavior—from those who would call Gilda and Dorothy’s relationship obscene to those who would judge Violet’s affair with Arthur to Mrs. Biggins’s strict understanding of how an upstanding woman should act. Who would you say is the moral compass of the book? Is morality fluid—a product of its times—or is it an objective measure of behavior that should be unaffected by the current state of society? Can actions be interpreted in black and white or is that actually harmful?

10. Does A Single Thread have a “happy” ending?

11. Tracy Chevalier’s novels, despite their historical setting, have a remarkable ability to stand outside of time and resonate with present day. In what ways do you feel the novel and its themes are relevant today? What did you take away from it?

Customer Reviews

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A Single Thread (Signed Book) 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 9 reviews.
CSGreedyReader 10 days ago
3.5 stars "A Single Thread" is a novel that builds slowly to a far-fetched ending, but which nonetheless is a good read. It's pleasure is in the small joys that mount for Violet Speedwell, a woman in her late thirties whose fiancee and brother perished in WWI. Even with so few men in her generation to marry, single women are looked upon with distrust. Violet's steps toward independence are modest but transform her life--first she moves to a new town and out of her critical mother's home. She makes so little money she can barely survive, but the peace is worth it. Then, she becomes involved with some of the traditional arts of English cathedral cities, embroideries and bell ringing. These hardly seem the stuff of excitement, but Chevalier describes these pastimes with care and empathy, and you can understand Violet's growing connection to the work and the personalities involved. Slowly, her circle expands, and the story start to fall apart. You really want some happiness for Violet but bringing in a lurking stranger and an impossible love rings false. The pleasure of this novel is the quiet care with which Violet's life grows and develops. I wish Chevalier had just let the story be without adding those awkward romantic/threat elements. But "A Single Thread" is an enjoyable book, AND you'll be Googling bell ringing and brodering to learn more. ~~Candace Siegle, Greedy Reader
CSGreedyReader 10 days ago
3.5 stars "A Single Thread" is a novel that builds slowly to a far-fetched ending, but which nonetheless is a good read. It's pleasure is in the small joys that mount for Violet Speedwell, a woman in her late thirties whose fiancee and brother perished in WWI. Even with so few men in her generation to marry, single women are looked upon with distrust. Violet's steps toward independence are modest but transform her life--first she moves to a new town and out of her critical mother's home. She makes so little money she can barely survive, but the peace is worth it. Then, she becomes involved with some of the traditional arts of English cathedral cities, embroideries and bell ringing. These hardly seem the stuff of excitement, but Chevalier describes these pastimes with care and empathy, and you can understand Violet's growing connection to the work and the personalities involved. Slowly, her circle expands, and the story start to fall apart. You really want some happiness for Violet but bringing in a lurking stranger and an impossible love rings false. The pleasure of this novel is the quiet care with which Violet's life grows and develops. I wish Chevalier had just let the story be without adding those awkward romantic/threat elements. But "A Single Thread" is an enjoyable book, AND you'll be Googling bell ringing and brodering to learn more. ~~Candace Siegle, Greedy Reader
Anonymous 23 days ago
I found this book a bit of a drudge in the first half. Had I not committed to writing a review, I probably wouldn't have finished it. However, I did finish it, and I'm glad. The historical details are rich and informative. I enjoyed reading about the bell ringers and the embroidery. I could empathize with the characters who lost so much to the war. Violet's character, though, is aptly named, for she is a shrinking violet. I could not even remember her name a week after reading the book! I was also puzzled by the obsessive interest she sparked in a random man. How would that even happen? Why? How did he just happen to find her so many times? What was the point? I will read more from Tracy Chevalier, but this book just wasn't for me. Thank you to Net Galley and the publisher for the ARC.
AmyGoBucks 25 days ago
I appreciate the ARC from Netgalley and the publisher for my honest review. Overall, this book was okay, but it was very slow going. Violet's character portrayed a woman's struggle to find her place and way to survive if not married post WWI, moving into WWII. I enjoyed learning about the broderers and the bell-ringers because they were an interesting part of history that I knew nothing of prior to this book. With all of that said, I felt the relationships and the characters themselves were flat. The story took a long time to develop, and the Jack Smith character was just so randomly thrown in. I truly enjoyed Girl With the Pearl Earring, but this was not the same level of book.
nhr3bookcrazyNR 26 days ago
Personally, I found this book sad and depressing. I truly did not like her mother, and the entire story was just sad, sadder, and saddest. But very interesting information about needlework, the cathedral, the area in and around the cathedral, and bell ringing. Too bad it was all so dry and ... sad.
JennyLibrarian 30 days ago
I received a free advanced reading copy (Kindle) from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This is my second Tracy Chevalier book and I enjoyed it just as much as the first one that I read. It's a historical novel about post-World War I England and it covered two topics that I know very little about - embroidery and bell-ringing. She managed to make both topics fascinating (at least to me) and she also brought strong female characters and their relationships to life. Minus one star for a Hollywood ending, but definitely a thoroughly enjoyable read!
LHill2110 3 months ago
Writing: 4/5 Characters: 3.5/5 Story: 3.5/5 Historical depiction: 5/5 In 1933, Violet Speedwell is one of the many “surplus” women — women for whom there simply are no men, WWI having depleted the stores. This quiet, slow-paced, and yet utterly engrossing novel follows the 38-year old Violet as she slowly makes an independent life for herself without the availability of traditional options. Leaving her home in Southampton and her embittered and critical mother, she takes a low-paid typing job and a room in a boarding house in nearby Winchester. It is there that she becomes drawn into the community of Cathedral Broderers who have taken on the task of producing the Cathedral embroideries (360 kneelers, 62 stall cushions and 96 alms bags). I am in no way “crafty,” but I found the description of the entire effort, from overall design, to process, to individual effort to be fascinating. As one of the volunteers (also a Latin teacher) says, “sic parvis magna — from small things, greatness,” commenting that these may be the only mark they are able to make on the world. I liked the fact that the lives described may have been “small” by modern dramatic standards, but were rich and full of meaning to those who lived them. There is more: early forays into independence; friendships with other women who have not made conventional choices; beautiful descriptions of the natural beauty of the region; and some utterly fascinating descriptions of bell-ringing (did you know that in campanology (bell ringing) a “Peal” is a pattern of bell ringing that goes through 5,000 changes without stopping and can take over three hours? I did not. Don’t forget — each bell is pulled at the precise time by an actual human being.) Excellent historical fiction based on real events and organizations and beautiful writing that stays true to the mores and habits of the period.
trutexan 3 months ago
This latest book by Tracey Chevalier is set during the years between the Great War and World War II. The focus is on the role of women during these years and how difficult it was for those who were single and at an age where many men from their generation had perished in the Great War. The main character is Violet Speedwell, a young woman who is grieving the loss of a fiancee and a brother. She has also lost her father, to whom she was very close. Violet has a contentious relationship with her mother. When she chooses to move out and live on her own, she upsets the family expectations and causes them to rethink what a woman’s place should be. Two prominent subjects in the book are the bell ringers of the Cathedrals and the elaborate needlepoint (embroidery) that the women made to decorate the Cathedrals. Violet was fascinated by both of these subjects and decides to become one of the embroiders. Her decision to become involved with the embroiders was pivotal in her life. She finds a purpose, finds her independence and even finds love and a way to live fully, despite what society dictates. I found this one to be a slow burn, as I was almost halfway into the story before I became invested. The second half was very engaging and it was interesting to learn about a part of England and the Cathedrals that I was not aware of. Of course, after I finished the book, I had to go to the internet and find images of the needlepoint for the Cathedrals. Truly beautiful work! Many thanks to NetGalley and Penguin Group Viking for allowing me to read an advance copy. I am happy to provide my honest review.
Reader4102 3 months ago
Chevalier has created a novel that is so well written that the reader finds herself becoming slowly immersed in the lives of the author’s characters. This isn’t just a historical novel nor is it a book about women and their friendships nor about embroidery nor about forbidden love nor about small town prejudices and judgments. No, this this is about all that and more. “Single Thread” is a slow-paced book that carefully builds a community that draws the reader into it so when it ends, you are disappointed. This book is not for those who like fast-paced historical novels. This book was written to be savored with the author choosing her words carefully. Although, thoroughly researched, the reader is never overwhelmed with the depth of Chevalier’s research. The reader is given information about two little-known occupations – the women who embroidered the kneelers and cushions for the Winchester Cathedral after WWI and bell ringers who rang the giant bells of said cathedral – but the information is so well-written and so in tune with the storyline, the reader may not realize she’s learning as she’s reading. There is no doubt that Chevalier has written a character-driven book with a storyline many can relate to. The characters come alive through the author’s execution of her craft. The events in the book may surprise, they may even put you off. But for those us who love reading well-crafted book these events are as they should be for the characters involved. Some readers said they could see the ending coming, but not me. I was too busy being impressed with the writing and liking the characters to actually care how the book ended. If historical novels are at the top of your favorite genres list, then this book is for you. If you like to immerse yourself into an author’s story, this book is for you. If you like to learn as you read, this book is for you. If you want to read this book, put it at the top of your to-be-read list. Thanks to Viking Books and Edelweiss for an eARC.