The Hidden Thread

Written by Liz Trenow
Review by Lynn Guest

This quiet novel centers on a gentle romance set against the backdrop of the silk industry in 1760s London. Inspired by the unknown early life of the most celebrated textile designer of the 18th century, Anna Maria Garthwaite, the narrative follows fictional character Anna Butterfield as she moves to London from her Suffolk country home, where she lives with her vicar father and younger sister. Rather than enjoying her introduction into society, Anna, who longs to become an artist, finds herself stifled in the home of her wealthy aunt and uncle and decidedly put off by the wealthy young man who fancies himself her suitor. Thus, in forbidden outings, she explores her love for creating delicate drawings of flowers that are remarkably natural and beautiful.

A chance encounter between Anna and French immigrant Henri Vendôme early on leads to their growing attraction and respect for one another—he is an exceptionally gifted weaver, she the artist whose graceful designs will almost certainly make his name as a master weaver, while allowing Anna to achieve her own dreams of freedom. But this is a time of tumultuous social upheaval, and the two come from very different worlds. Anna’s life is dictated by the demands of her role as a proper lady, while Henri and his friends are caught in the growing wave of resentment against immigrants and wage riots that lead to imprisonment and hangings. The author’s family have been silk weavers for nearly three centuries. In this compelling story set at the time of the silk riots in the Age of Enlightenment, her knowledge of cloth and color shines throughout.