WORDS WEEKEND REVIEW: Tracy Chevalier @ Sage Gateshead (07.12.19) | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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20 years after writing The Girl With The Pearl Earring, a New York Times bestseller, Tracy Chevalier is back with her latest novel A Single Thread, the story of a young woman striking out alone in 1932 after the loss of her fiancé during the First World War.

The novel, inspired by the women who embroidered the cushions and kneelers in Winchester Cathedral, covers the theme of the ‘surplus women’ – a phrase coined during the Industrial Revolution, referring to a perceived excess of unmarried women in Britain. Men died during the war, women who might have expected to marry, didn’t. Society wasn’t set up for these women.

Chevalier is a wellspring of information, with painstaking research playing a huge part in her novels. As part of the research for A Single Thread she learned to embroider. “You have to immerse yourself in the period and the place,” she says, in her lilting British-American accent.  “It adds a textural detail.”

When asked to recall a career highlight to date, she smiles and says, “I did get to meet Colin Firth,” drawing laughter from the audience. Another upcoming highlight will transpire in May 2020 as Zurich Opera House has commissioned an opera based on The Girl With A Pearl Earring.  “I am beyond excited,” she says.

The event closes with a few educated questions from the audience and wraps up with warmth and laughter. As we walk out to get our books signed, I feel as though I’ve had a good chat with an old friend.

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