Tracy Chevalier’s 10th novel, A Single Thread, will be published by Borough Press in September, two decades on from the break-out success of Girl With a Pearl Earring.
Borough Press acquired two books, for UK and Commonwealth excluding Canada, from Chevalier’s longtime agent Jonny Geller of Curtis Brown.
Set in Winchester in 1932, A Single Thread follows Violet Speedwell, “an unmarried ‘surplus woman’ who decides to take charge of her own future”. As the losses of the First World War are still keenly felt Violet is still in mourning for both her fiancé and her brother amd is regarded by society as unlikely to marry given the ratio of men to women. But she resolves not to subside graciously into spinsterhood, the synopsis reads.
Breaking free from her suffocating and judgemental mother, Violet goes to live alone in Winchester. On discovering a special service in the Cathedral, she falls in with the broderers, a group of women charged with embroidering kneelers and cushions. They are led by the formidable Louisa Pesel and in them Violet discovers the community and companionship she never got at home.
Borough Press’ publishing director Suzie Dooré called the book the author’s “finest novel yet and we are so thrilled and proud to be publishing it”. She added: “Violet is an unforgettable character and this book will become a modern classic.”
Chevalier said: “In my 10th novel I have delved into the very English matters of embroidery, bellringing, cathedral communities and the petty politics of volunteer groups – with just a dash of fascism for added spice… it’s the 1930s, after all.
“Normally my books are set long ago. But this time as I was writing A Single Thread I kept thinking that my heroine was born around the same time as my grandmother. History is drawing ever nearer.”
Geller said: “It’s 20 years since Tracy’s second novel, since Girl With a Pearl Earring, was first published and reading A Single Thread brought back all the memories of reading that great book. She portrays ordinary women in extraordinary situations like no other writer and A Single Thread is as powerful as it is heartbreaking”.
The news comes before a number of celebrations marking the 20th anniversary since Girl With a Pearl Earring (HarperCollins) was published, including a feature on the newly unveiled Radio 2 Book Club under Jo Whiley. In totoal Chevalier has sold 1.6 m units for £10.5m according to Nielsen BookScan with a third of that (£3.6m) from Girl with a Pearl Earring.