It's been 14 years since the Great War ended, and Violet Speedwell is still grieving the loss of her brother and her fiance. A daring move—living on her own—will bring her a chance to breathe and love again.
Of course, life as an independent woman in 1932 is hard. A typist for Southern Counties Insurance, Violet barely makes enough money to cover her rent at Mrs. Harvey's boardinghouse. Budgeting for one hot dinner a week and subsisting on margarine and Marmite sandwiches leaves Violet practically starving. She's emotionally starving, too. Chevalier (New Boy, 2017, etc.) masterfully portrays the bleak lives of the “surplus women” left to carry on after a generation of young men—their potential husbands—were killed in World War I. Telling the tale of the Lost Generation from a woman's perspective, Chevalier fills in the outlines of these forgotten women with unending penny-pinching, mended dresses, and lonely evenings with tea and a Trollope novel. Yet a chance glimpse into a special service at her church opens the door to Violet’s healing: She finds the broderers, a group of women embroidering gorgeous, colorful seats and kneelers for the church. Led by the vibrant Louisa Pesel (and her dour assistant, Mrs. Biggins), the broderers' guild offers Violet a chance to make something beautiful and lasting in a world that has been dark and has cut off life at its knees for too long. In Chevalier’s novel, the embroidery circle becomes a metaphorical tapestry, threading all these women together. Soon Violet has not only joined the circle, but also made unexpected friends. Violet also discovers her own courage to try for love, a love her society would condemn, but in these days and in this author’s hands, all love is sacred.
A compelling portrait of women not lost but thriving against the odds.