The Lace Weaver
The bestselling, breathtaking debut about love and war, and the battle to save a precious legacy.
Each lace shawl begins and ends the same way – with a circle. Everything is connected with a thread as fine as gossamer, each life affected by what has come before it and what will come after.
1941, Estonia. As Stalin’s brutal Red Army crushes everything in its path, Katarina and her family survive only because their precious farm produce is needed to feed the occupying forces.
Fiercely partisan, Katarina battles to protect her grandmother’s precious legacy – the weaving of gossamer lace shawls stitched with intricate patterns that tell the stories passed down through generations.
While Katarina struggles to survive the daily oppression, another young woman is suffocating in her prison of privilege in Moscow. Yearning for freedom and to discover her beloved mother’s Baltic heritage, Lydia escapes to Estonia.
Facing the threat of invasion by Hitler’s encroaching Third Reich, Katarina and Lydia and two idealistic young soldiers, insurgents in the battle for their homeland, find themselves in a fight for life, liberty and love.
Praise for The Lace Weaver
‘A beautifully written and utterly compelling story of love and war and resistance that shines a light onto a dark and tragic period of history while also illuminating the enduring power of love and friendship. Unforgettable and emotionally wrenching, and as exquisite as the lace the women of the story weave.’ Kate Forsyth
‘A sweeping historical story set in Estonia and Russia during the tumultuous year of 1941 … This is a meticulously researched novel, and Chater seamlessly incorporates the symbolic motif of the Estonian lace-weaving tradition and the Tartu knitting circle to link the past and present … Recommended for fans of Kirsty Manning and Kate Morton, this is a gut-wrenching tale about a devastating time in history. Full of hope, heartache and the power of keeping traditions alive.’ Books+Publishing
‘From the very first line, I was captivated by this tale of two very different, but equally heroic, women. There is beauty to be found everywhere: in the writing, in the women's friendship, in the tragedy, and in the motif of the lace shawls, which weaves the story together.’ Natasha Lester, author of Her Mother’s Secret and A Kiss from Mr Fitzgerald
'A rich, textured and evocatively told story of love, loss and the ties that bind. The setting is exotic and intriguing and presents a unique side of the war ... I found it difficult to put this haunting novel down and it will stay with me for a long time to come, I’m certain. Lauren Chater is a bold new force in Australian historical fiction. Bravo on a glorious debut!’ Tess Woods, author of Beautiful Messy Love and Love at First Flight.
‘Beautiful and brilliant … An impressive, powerful and skillfully told anti-war novel from an extremely gifted writer.’ Backstory journal
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Lace WeaverUser Review - Thorpe-Bowker and Contributors - Books+Publishing
Lauren Chater's debut novel, The Lace Weaver, is a sweeping historical story set in Estonia and Russia during the tumultuous year of 1941. Stalin's Red Army has descended on Estonia, causing fear and ... Read full review
The Lace Weaver is the first novel by Australian author, Lauren Chater. In mid-1941, the hard-won independence of Estonia (and the other Baltic states) was no more: the Red Army occupied the countries, installing pro-Soviet governments, although they put it this way: “the Baltics have always belonged to Russia. She has just welcomed them back to the fold.”
On their farm near Tartu, Katarina Rebane and her parents work hard to survive, tending sheep and growing apples. Much had been lost in the preceding years: Kati’s beloved grandmother Elina had died; her best friend Oskar Magi had fled after being accused of murdering his family; her brother, Jakob attends University in town, seldom returning home.
At least she still has her knitting group, where the important Estonian tradition of creating lace shawls, to be sold at the flea markets, is continued. But now, the Partorg (party organiser) in Tartu has directed that all their wool be handed over to the state: not even the meagre amount used for shawls can be retained. Will their tradition die?
Partorg at Tartu, Piotr Volkov has just received word that another round of mass deportations is to be enforced, when his daughter, Lydia turns up from Moscow. Reeling from the arrest of her beau, Joachim, and revelations about her mother’s death, Lydia has decided to console herself with a visit to her father, there in her mother’s homeland. But more shocking revelations are to come.
Within days, both Kati and Lydia are with other refugees in a forest camp under the protection of a partisan group, the Forest Brothers, while Oskar and Jakob have put on brown uniforms and are fighting the Russian soldiers. The partisan groups are pinning all their hopes on the Germans, confident that the Nazis will oust the Russians and return the Estonian government to power.
In an evocative historical novel, Chater blends fact and fiction to draw attention to the losses that war can precipitate: not just life and limb, but also the precious legacy of traditional arts and crafts that epitomise a nation. It’s easy to imagine how these groups of women knitting shawls and chatting would bring calm in troubled times. Chater also demonstrates how, even during war and flight from persecution, life with all it’s small joys and petty jealousies, goes on.
Chater’s extensive research on all matters Estonian and shawl-related is apparent on every page. She provides information in her acknowledgements on suggested further reading, although a link to images of the shawls, or even an illustration of some patterns would have been welcome. A moving debut novel.