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A Slender Tether and Ties that Bind

I'm very pleased to say that A Slender Tether, a novel in linked stories, is now available as an audio book in a number of places, including the free library site Hoopla. In celebration, I thought I would outline the ways that the tethers in our lives, ties that bind us or secure us and the threads between us, appear in the book and what they say about the human condition.


In "Raptor Among Bluebirds"

A connection about to break: In "Raptor Among Bluebirds" the father of Christine de Pizan is confronted with his own pending death and remarks that "unable to heal her husband on his deathbed, a wife will sew a leather tie, a slender tether, on his doublet" as a futile attempt to reinforce a connection that is about to break.


A tether to prosperity or the strings of puppets: Christine's mother her mother sends granddaughter away to a convent with the princess. "I've done us a great service!" Tessa insisted. She strode around the room, gesturing with expansive arms, and Christine heard snatches of logic that it would tie them to the court and position them well, but to Christine her mother was engaged in her profession, bartering with the lives of others." Pg. 63


Strapped into a lethal situation: The King, who has gone mad, joins in a celebration as one of the Green Men, in costume. "The Duke d'Orleans laughed and grabbed a torch for a better look at the masqueraders. But leaning close into the faces, the duke's torch caught one of the suits on fire, and as they were all tied together, the five wild men were suddenly lit ablaze." Pg. 70


Needlework that disguises erudition: Prevented from studying by her mother, Christine decides to record her research in needlework. "Quilt squares would serve as her parchment. In this battle, the English troops in a ring around the lake could be represented by a double-stitch rose and the French by a white cross signifying the Duke of Burgundy. "Alicia," Madame de Pizan called brightly through the rooms, "Christine is making a quilt for the baby!" pg. 34


Fabric work that is discounted by men: Though her quilt squares demonstrate her solid analysis of warfare, her ally at court rejects them as mere women's work. "With his hostile touch, her work had gone from erudition to rags on a table… suddenly so female, so trivial. She … hurried to her rooms with her raggedy bundle like a widow seen quayside. When I dare to cross the line from craftswoman to thinker he shows his true colors, she fumed, as vehemently opposed to women of substance as the rest of the world. She had lost her last ally."

Pg. 75


The erroneous thread: The wife of Giles Malet is retrieving embroidery thread and witnesses what she falsely believes to be her husband in Christine's embrace. This has a major impact on Christine's life.


Sewing as procrastination and deflection: Offered the possibility of getting what she has always wanted, to write, she thinks "she should sew Jean a new doublet; he couldn't be shabby among the Englishmen." Pg. 100


In "The Gong Farmer's Tale"


Tethered to one's true purpose and knowledge: A doctor who was grief-stricken over the death of his wife assigns himself to the team collecting 'nightsoil'/feces as a "Gong Farmer, who, finding love again, turned back into a doctor, tethered to his knowledge no matter his occupation."


The ribbons of tribute and devotion: The Gong Farmer "had died for love, or lack of love, or guilt of love…killed with love and lack of love, and ultimately he froze in his shame. The farm lasses, though, believed he was a champion of love's cause. Even if he had failed at it he had upheld its tenets; he raised the standard of love, and they continued to drape him in their woven threads of devotion." Pg. 114


In "The Vat Man's Promise"


The strings of commerce: Monique Fontaine, protagonist, is desperate to avoid an arranged marriage designed to save the family business. Her brother insists that she wear low-cut gowns and display cleavage to draw suiters. "Her breasts for dock lines, she thought, one cheek for a mainsail. She raised her hands to cross herself, but Michel caught her halfway up. "Do that again in public and I'll tie your hands to the chair with your string of pearls, sister." Pg. 144:


The tethers of beloved animals:  Jean hunts with a hawk and a dog, his hawk with slender leather tethers called jesses tied to its legs. His livelihood is threatened when his dog tears a sinew in its leg and can't hunt. "What could be simpler than your life? A dog, a bird, and their tethers." Pg. 156


The strings of musical instruments: Guillaume, a mummer who is down on his luck, "had hung his heart's calm on the cadence and rhythm of music. The structure of it: the beat of the drum was the wall, and musical scales were the ceiling. The strings of his guitar had tied him to a life of food, shelter, and welcome." Pg. 159:


The bounty of a slender view: Bernard, the vat man and owner of a paper mill is losing his eyesight because of an accident but "found the new lack of focus Monique's presence engendered to be as unnerving as his failing sight. Yet he knew that if he could see, he would have ownership of his mill, and she would just be a customer who would come dressed in her finery…instead of the sweating maid in a water-soaked kirtle who had tied her fate to his. Bernard had to acknowledge that he would rather have a little sliver of this life than the panorama of the former one." Pg. 155:


The audio book is also available for purchase at many online retailers, including:





The paperback is available here, and the ebook at online retailers.


Also find the audiobook at:


NOOK books: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/book/1115251279
Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/audiobook/slender-tether-a
Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/audiobooks/details/Jess_Wells_A_Slender_Tether?id=AQAAAEAS3lCeUM
Libro: https://libro.fm/audiobooks/9798868745607
Storytel: https://www.storytel.com/se/sv/books/4722290

And for more information on the astounding Christine de Pizan, check out these blog posts:


Christine de Pizan Honored by The Great Courses Plus


The Struggles of Europe's First Feminist 

Ambition as a Theme in A Slender Tether 

The Little Ice Age as Setting for A Slender Tether 

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