With the loss of both her brother and fiance in WWI, Violet Speedwell is considered to be a 'surplus woman'. Her existence is bleak but in a bid for independence she moves to Winchester. Drawn to the community surrounding the Cathedral, Violet's life becomes entwined with those of the embroiderers and bell ringers.
Set at a gentle pace this is an appealing story of social history that captures the detail of everyday life with clarity and compassion. [Larger font]
Group found the embroidery and bell ringing really interesting. Two of the group had actually been to Winchester Cathedral. A few of the group found the storyline bland, but all joined in discussing England after the war.
We were waiting for something momentous to happen; the 'stalker' part of the book was contrived.
Nobody disliked the book and all agreed it was very descriptive and well researched. The subject matter and the main character detracted for some. Nearly everyone had read 'The Girl with the Pearl Earring', if not more of the authors work, and all felt this book suffered by comparison. The theme of the surplus women and the challenges, restrictions and expectations of that era were well written and generated a food discussion. Everyone felt the ending was weak.
We mostly found this book a readable, interesting book explaining single women's situations between the Wars. We didn't think it 'rebellious' of Violet to choose to move and work - rather that she could see more options and opportunities for herself and her friends. Maybe the start of feminist developments.
One or two negative comments but overall most enjoyed it, with some very enthusiastic about the good writing style and details of embroidery and bell-ringing.
A general discussion concluded that this was an enjoyable (if not memorable) read, but that the author has a real talent for articulating the uncertainties in the minds of young women in difficult personal circumstances.
Lovely book to read. Fresh post war perspective.
Loved it - thank you.
We all enjoyed this book for a number of reasons. Quite a few were familiar with the area, some do embroidery while others enjoyed the historic information. This lead to a wide ranging discussion from the changing roles of women to reasons for the Second World War.
The readers enjoyed the many different threads to the story - besides the embroidery, there was the bell ringer, the life of single women, the impact of war on a society, attitudes to relationships etc. There was plenty of discussion!
The book group appreciated the author's sensitivity to the situation of single women in British society in the 1930s, after so many men were taken in WW1. The protagonist navigates the difficulties of prejudice and loneliness, finding solace in an all-women embroidery group and an all-men bell-ringers ensemble. We felt that, while many of her encounters were warm and believable, some aspects of the novel seemed forced and unnecessary, particularly the role of a stalker whose presence did not really advance the main concerns of the plot.
This book was very popular with the whole group. Several went on to further research on Winchester Cathedral Embroiders' Group.
A very interesting read. We learnt a lot.
Book was well received by all readers. Very informative and well-written. Great read.
Overall we enjoyed this book. Members commented that they learnt a lot about embroidery and bell ringing. Some bits were a bit dull, but the social history about women's plight after the first World War being 'surplus' women, was very interesting and moving to read about.
We all enjoyed this book, and became curious about bell-ringing!
People found the beginning not so great but then once into it, everyone enjoyed it. We commented that it would be great to travel and view the cushions of the Cathedral.
We all enjoyed this book. The social history of the period was very interesting. Several of our members are keen embroiderers, and hence were particularly enthusiastic about the history of the cushions. A book we would recommend to all.
All eleven of us enjoyed this book! We found the title very apt as once Violet joined the broderers' group, a single thread did draw all the characters together. Fascinating that Miss Pesel was a real designer. The book was thoroughly researched and we loved the detail of the embroideries and bell-ringing. The social history, viz. the lives and lot of "surplus" women post The Great War, gave all pause for thought. Some felt the author stretched credibility venturing into the territory of lesbianism and illegitimacy.
This work, again thoroughly researched, offers insight into the plight of 'surplus women' post WWI in Britain. Family dynamics were interesting and entirely credible. Loved the glimpses into the demanding skills of dedicated broderers and bell ringers. Expresses the usual ratio of human kindness, cruelty, fragility, understanding and prejudice. Although some patches of tedium, it was well-written and an engrossing read.
Interesting but somewhat pedestrian novel. It does however highlight the difficult position of women forced to, or wishing to, live independently after WWI when there was a so-called surplus of women following the deaths of so many young men during the war. Women had an unenviable lot.
All enjoyed it mostly - good social history of single women after the war, but some felt it was rather a silly story.
An easy read enjoyed by almost everyone. We appreciated the descriptive passages - Winchester Cathedral, the countryside -and the information about bellringing and embroidery - enhanced by using the internet and YouTube. We thought the plot was weak and rather contrived and the male characters rather unconvincing. We thought that the strength of the book lay in the context, obviously based on much research, and it gave a good insight into the lives of women, particularly "surplus" women, in this period. There was lively discussion about various single women we remembered in our lives.
On the whole enjoyed by the group. We thought the "times" had been well portrayed, particularly women's roles and attitudes towards them.
All loved the book. Winchester, bell-ringing, and embroidery were all familiar. Good discussion.
Spurred conversation about the treatment and status of women. We enjoyed the aspects of bellringing and stitching, with most of us checking out Louisa Pesel online. A number of our group had been to Winchester Cathedral.
An easy read. Most enjoyed it, especially the background of the cathedral, and the way of life in that era. Our crafty people especially appreciated it.
Enjoyed by most of the group, and provoked good discussion. Title was clever and appropriate.
Everyone loved this book. The sort of book to read slowly and savour. A contemplation on one's past life and possibilities of future life.
We all enjoyed reading 'A Simple Thread'. Being a single woman between WWI and WWII was not a very happy or pleasant life. This was a very good eye opener, but also we still see some of the old stigmas. Being based on fact (we did love Miss Pesel) and with many of us having visited Winchester Cathedral, we feel totally drawn in to Violet's life. A well-written book, highly recommended.
We all loved this - wonderful writing to make embroidery and bellringing so compelling! A lovely read.
With so much written about the wars it was interesting to know more about that unique time in history between the two wars. Many of us had childhood memories of elderly single relatives who had also been "surplus" women. It stimulated lots of discussion on the roles and expectations on women and how much has/ has not changed. We also had an interesting discussion on morality and if it is fixed or dependent on circumstances. Some of us found it a bit slow and with too much detail on embroidery and bellringing,for our interest.