I was hugely disappointed by this book The problem with Tracy Chevalier is that she writes both adult and YA fiction and chooses not to make it clear which is which This is very definitely aimed at the YA market and would make excellent reading for a literate 13 15 year old To an adult reader it seemed mechanical, as if Chevalier had looked at the books which were selling well, opted for the pre or post war spinsters theme and constructed her novel accordingly with a lesbian couple, a single mother, and a male stalker to appeal to the woke And a fantasy happy ending, of course Oh, well, better luck next time Being an embroidery and needlework enthusiast and even an erstwhile bell ringer I thought this book would be right up my street and it was Set in the 1930s, with memories of the Great War still very raw in people s minds, this book also explores English Society at that time and the very real real restrictions still placed on young women who had glimpsed a independent life but then found the walls of society closing in again.Violet, desperate to be independent, and perhaps hoping to find a partner, leaves her fractious and widowed mother in Southampton and moves to a boarding house in Winchester No great distance these days but relying in trains made travel difficult and expensive for Violet Her job is unfulfilling a typist in an insurance office and she finds it difficult to make new friends especially at a time when women jealously guard their husbands or become sad, grey spinsters Her new friend Gilda introduces her to the Broderers at the Cathedral and there she learns a new skill and subsequently about the motifs used in the church embroideries.All well and good, but then throw a lonely and bereaved married man into the mix and things take a new turn and provide a new interest for Violet bell ringing No spoilers though And of course there is also the special relationship between Gilda and Dorothy.Violet develops as a careful social strategist, enabling both her friends and her family to forge new relationships, and has a surprise of her own at the end The narrative moves quietly and smoothly, but is never boring. Here s a coincidence Just before Abbotsbury s new kneelers were dedicated by a Bishop who is also a bell ringer, up pops a new novel all about kneeler makers and bell ringers To be fair, the kneelers and the bells provide only the framework for a 1930s story, told in the style of the 1930s.The heroine is Violet Speedwell, a surplus spinster left behind by the deaths of her brother and her fianc in the Great War Desperate to escape her monster of a mother, she moves to Winchester and from one stifling existence to another, as a lady typist in an insurance office Visiting the Cathedral, she encounters a group of women in the choir stalls and learns that they are the Cathedral Broderers Her approach was blocked by a woman who would simper at deans and bishops and treat everyone else like a peasant , but she bluffs her way in and becomes a kneeler maker, encouraged by the charismatic Louisa Pesel Friendships lead to meeting the bell ringers and their craft, practised like the kneeler makers, not by highly trained professionals, but by ordinary men and women offering up their skills.Around this framework Chevalier builds her narrative, touching on themes peculiar to the period when Violet s mother suffers a stroke, the doctor will only speak to Violet s brother who lives miles away, not to Violet who is on the spot, or the description of her landlady s chilly rooms and intrusive approach to her paying guests but also to timeless circumstances, as when Violet is stalked, or in the perhaps inevitable conclusion to the story and the conflicting responses from Violet s friends and family.I mentioned the style of Chevalier s story telling careful to avoid hindsight, she writes as if she were an author of the 1930s, only vaguely aware of some possibly ominous developments in Europe When one of the bell ringers protests at a swastika motif on a kneeler, Louisa Pesel shows him the same motif on a mediaeval Bishop s tomb, and makes light of its use by an insignificant group of Germans.Another appeal of the book to anyone who played a part in the Abbotsbury kneelers project is the vigorous defence of those Cathedral kneelers the new embroidered ones lifted the tone of the presbytery, giving it colour and a sense of designed purpose And Chevalier has Ms Pesel tell Violet that the embroiderers work will remind congregations of the love and care that has gone into making every window, every pillar, every chapel and floor tile so beautiful that the spirit soars and the wallet opens PS the story may be fiction, but Louisa Pesel 1870 1947 and first President of the Embroiderers Guild isn t, and the 360 Winchester kneelers she designed for her team of 160 stitchers are still in use today in the Cathedral, along with many later kneelers and up to 200 other stitched pieces of work This review originally appeared in the Chesil Magazine, Dorset I didn t expect that I would like this book But I did Very much so.It s a brilliant evocation of the 1930s, society, Winchester, cathedrals, bell ringing and, of course, embroidery I haven t the slightest interest in embroidery, but it didn t matter The book is a gentle, slow, absorbing brilliant.highly recommended. From the globally best selling author of Girl with a Pearl Earring Violet isThe First World War took everything from her Her brother, her fianc 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 Enjoyable read the lead character Violet stands apart from her 1930s female peers She chooses to live her life without the influence of moral judgement of the period.Winchester, the cathedral and the needlework laboured over by the broderers will now be added to my to do list of places to see.The narrative provides an insight to unusual pastimes embroidery and bell ringing The novel brings the early 20th Century to life and realistic characters.The colour and flower Violet will provoke a memory of the protagonist and her story a narrative threaded by her communal embroidery, family and friends.A recommended read. It is 1932 and Violet Speedwell, aged 38, is escaping from her critical, demanding mother to make an independent life for herself in Winchester Like many surplus women , her fianc e was killed in WWI Subsisting meagrely on her typist wage she finds the going quite hard and it s not until she joins a group of women embroiderers at the cathedral that life becomes interesting We are introduced to the real character of Louisa F Pesel, who was a notable needle woman and a driving force in Greek and English design The works she collected from many parts of the world, plus some of her own designs, are with the University of Leeds One of her many ventures was to teach embroidery to wounded ex soldiers and another a major plot point in the book was to organise the creation of cushions etc for Winchester Cathedral There is a terrific scene in the book where Arthur the bell ringer is disturbed to see swastikas on a border Miss Pesel leads him to the tomb of a bishop so he can see for himself that this ancient fylfot symbol was used way before the Nazis appropriated it In fact it is an ancient symbol used right around the world, signifying health and harmony.As Violet grows in confidence she stands up to her boss and her mother goes on a walking holiday by herself meets lesbians gets stalked gets a lot better at embroidery gets to ring a church bell and falls for an unavailable man with consequences which she wears proudly which is difficult but not impossible to imagine, given the period When her mother ends up in hospital she is of course, expected to give up her job to be the carer companion She tells her brother firmly that she will be returning to work So the book has a modern sensibility and we get to hear a lot about campanology and canvas work, which may not be for everyone Chevalier is a skilled author her characters are not all bad or all good and the plot points that demonstrate her themes are neatly laid out The main value of the book for me was learning about Louisa Pesel, a truly remarkable woman who died in 1947 and whose semifinal books are still on sale. Il fidanzato di Violet morto nella prima guerra mondiale, e con lui quasi un milione di giovani inglesi, e altrettanti sono rimasti inabili senza speranza di recupero Lei una delle tantissime donne i cui sogni di famiglia, figli, futuro sono stati bruscamente spezzati Da leggere I have read other books by Tracey Chevalier so had high expectations for this one I enjoyed it but felt it was a bit bland I learned a lot about bell ringing, embroidery and life in England counties between WW1 and WW11 The characters were well described but not as alive as in her other books. Such a lovely story Endearing characters A look into what life was like for some women after World War II Loved this book Highly recommend it.