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South Riding

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3.9 of 5 stars 3.90  ·  rating details  ·  1,269 ratings  ·  151 reviews
Winner of the James Tait Black Memorial Prize, Winifred Holtby's greatest novel was published posthumously



Winifred Holtby'smasterpiece is a rich evocation of the lives and relationships of the characters of South Riding. Sarah Burton, the fiery young headmistressof the local girls' school; Mrs Beddows, the district's first alderwoman—based on Holtby's own mother; and Rober
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Paperback, 492 pages
Published July 1st 2011 by Virago UK (first published 1936)
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Favorite Virago Modern Classics
21st out of 172 books — 84 voters
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Best Books of the Decade: 1930s
143rd out of 370 books — 552 voters


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Community Reviews

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Ruby Rose Scarlett
So this is one of Those Books. For me, there are two categories of books. Those that change your life, those which you started in a certain way and ended up changed when closing them. Such books are rare and precious. And then there are the ones that make you feel as if the author had extended a hand and held yours, that for the duration of your reading, you found a mirror so perfect it validated everything you'd been and everything you wished to be. This is such a book. It's about the value of ...more
Katie
South Riding is set in Yorkshire in the first half of the 1930′s, focusing on the everyday lives of the people who live there. There is Sarah Burton, the new headmistress of the girls’ school who returns to the area armed with progressive ideas and is determined to make a difference; there is Mrs Beddows, the council’s only female alderman who is torn between her desire for progress and her personal loyalties; and there is Robert Carne, staunch proponent of the old ways, desperately trying to ca ...more
Charmaine Anderson
I will admit that I am a Masterpiece Theater junkie. So when I discovered that they were going to have a production of “South Riding” this year I got on line and ordered a used copy. It was published in 1936. I was not disappointed.

Two things gave me pause before I began. The introduction said the story moved around English local government. Could that be interesting, I wondered? And then there was a list of characters 6 pages long at the beginning of the book. Wow! How will I ever keep that ma
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Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship
I’m going to go out on a limb and say this is the best classic novel you’ve never heard of. Correct me if I’m wrong.

This book is set in the early 1930s in the fictional South Riding of Yorkshire. It’s an ensemble piece, structured around the activities of local government and the ways they intersect with the characters’ lives. Most versions of the cover feature Sarah Burton, the fiery, progressive new headmistress at the local girls’ school, and she’s one of the most important characters, but th
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Morticia Adams
This is one of the most enjoyable novels I’ve read for ages.

South Riding covers two years in the life of a fictionalised borough in Yorkshire (though with a real name), and immerses you into the local politics and social life of the area. I felt myself being drawn into a gentle vortex where all human virtues and shortcomings intersect and revolve around each other – power-seeking and corruption, dutifulness and rectitude, greed and pettiness, generosity and kindness, but where there is equally
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Ali
First published in 1936 this is a marvelously femenist novel. Set in the fictional South Riding, with much of the story concerning local poitics, and the different characters and factions associated with the county council, alongside other local people. There is a large cast of characters, at the centre of which is Robert Carne, landowner and councillor, Sarah Burton, a new headmistress for the high school, and Mrs Beddows 72 Alderman, and great friend of Carne. Mrs Beddows - a truly marvelous c ...more
Teresa
What a hidden treasure, well, hidden to me until the recent resurgence in interest in Winifred Holtby thanks to the excellent BBC dramatisation of this epic novel. It's been quite a while since I've read such a deeply satisfying, challenging novel.

South Riding is simultaneously an engrossing story and an important piece of social history as it examines the lives of ordinary folk in this fictional part of Yorkshire whilst highlighting the extraordinary shifts in perspective which came about betwe
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Margaret
I had been meaning to get around to reading this for ages, and now I'm sorry I waited so long.

Holtby takes a community in Yorkshire and, using the framework of its local government, builds up a narrative which tells the stories of many people in the community, all intertwined. It reminds me a good deal of George Eliot in the organic feel of the community, how decisions and events affect everyone, and of Elizabeth Gaskell in the concern for social issues.

The characterization is simply brilliant
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Beth Bonini
Fantastic saga set in 1930s Yorkshire.
The book is chockful of political and social drama - with truly memorable characters.
Like the important women in the book -- Sarah Burton, the Headmistress; and Mrs. Beddows, the Alderman -- I was obsessed with Robert Carne. Symbol of a previous age, so noble and tragic!

The entire book rang true, even if it did describe a world unfamiliar to me.
I would happily read it again. Like all of the great novels, there is so much in it; one could hardly grasp it all
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Tanja Berg
Rating 4.5 / 5 stars. This book has everything I look for: a good story, wondefully told and with insight into the human condition. A sublime read! Beautifully written, amazing characterization, everything supremely realistic. Reminded me a little bit of "the Casual Vacancy", but that was just because I don't read books that deal with small-town government much. This is a far more optmistic book than J.K. Rowling's, but in other respects, more tragic. It depends on what you seek out, the author ...more
Laura
I recently tore a leg muscle and I picked up this book in an scapist mood, only to find it full of the "boring" or difficult stuff of daily life: meetings, job interviews, financial hardship and yes, of course, illness.
This novel has been recently adapted by the BBC, but I have missed it. However, I understand fully why it has been chosen, as it focuses on a Yorkshire community during a period of economic austeriry, the 1930s. Is the establishment trying to indoctrinate us during this recession?
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Alisa
Peyton Place in South Yorkshire. I mean that seriously. PP has a reputation for scandal, but when I read it in my teens, I was surprised to discover a non-glamorous tour of a New England town, looking at families from both sides of the tracks, with an emphasis on the particular characteristics of New Englanders.

South Riding does the same for Yorkshire. We travel from poverty-stricken Shacks to the toppled grandeur of the gentleman farmer to the crisp new townhouse of the scheming businessman. L
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Anne
The last time I read this book I was feeling too raw and emotional at the end to write a review. I think I'll give it a try now.

I think the greatest strength of South Riding is its sincerity. There is not a cynical bone in this book's body. Some of the characters express cynical views, some of the characters are deceitful and crooked, but Winifred Holtby writes about all of them without passing judgment. All people are good and bad and right and wrong. Sarah Burton realizes at the end of the boo
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Mizzo73
I work for local government and I'm reading a novel about local government....however the fantasy version is much more exciting/satisfying
Carey Combe
I remember loving this when I read it at school, look forward to seeing the tv adaptation
Jane Greensmith
Really enjoyed this book. A 20th century Middlemarch.
Alun Williams
A novel about the workings of local government in 1930s Yorkshire might not sound very promising material, but this is a very good read indeed. The writer uses the events in the lives of the novel's extensive cast of characters to explore issues such as birth-control, abortion, poverty, female educational opportunities, the position of unmarried women, corruption in local government. Although the novel is divided into books concentrating on a single issue the plot never feels artificial or labor ...more
Lainy
South Riding takes you on a trip back in time to the early 1930s in the South East part of Yorkshire. It is a very captivating account of the ongoing lives of the townsfolk and there is so much going on.

You have an abundance of characters which at first if I am honest it took me a while to keep up with and get a feel for. Young Midge whose father is trying to keep their heads above water whilst providing for her, her mothers care and standards she has known all her life and his prominant positio
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rabbitprincess
Apr 29, 2011 rabbitprincess rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: fans of between-the-wars fiction, Yorkshire, a dash of social commentary with their literature
Recommended to rabbitprincess by: dovegreyreader
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Joanna
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Deanne
Not sure how to catergorise this book. Took a while to get into and have to admit at first I wasn't impressed with Sarah Burton, though I did feel sympathy for Carne.
There's lots of characters in the south riding, but it's possible to see how they connect and affect each others lives, in good and bad ways. There's tragedy and romance and with any local government machinations, there's even a villain of the piece.
It did take a while to get involved, but I ended the book wishing it had been longe
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Donnell

Warning--the story does not have a traditional happy ending. Given that, it might help to watch the 2012 BBC DVD first. That way when you get to the book you can savor the delicious writing without worrying something bad will happen (which actually does happen.)

I came to Holtby after binging on Vera Brittain and her Testament of Youth and biography with particular focus on the WWI years. Holtby, of course, plays a large role in Vera's life so I began to wonder about her.

When the 2012 production
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Gwen
Feb 28, 2014 Gwen rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Gwen by: the Masterpiece miniseries
Shelves: fiction
It only took me the better part of two years, off and on, to finally finish this book. And what a book! For a book that can be inadequately summed up as "a novel about a strong feminist teacher in rural Yorkshire," this book encompasses so much more. From the intricacies of local politics (and how those politics are shaped by citizens and to what ends--this should be required reading for anyone who thinks that local politics don't matter) to the economic policies and effects of the interwar peri ...more
Rita
This book is a clear, poetic demonstration of how illness and disability can evoke creative beauty. The book's author, Winifred Holty, had scarlet fever as a child & Bright's disease leading to terminal kidney disease, four years of suffering and pain before her early death at the age of 37.

I had watched the Masterpiece Classic TV series, South Riding and enjoyed it immensely. Though it ran pretty close to the storyline, it didn't come close to the descriptive beauty of Holtby's words! She h
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Hippystick
What a wonderful book, I loved it. She created a whole town full of individual and believable characters. She's witty and very humane and a gifted storyteller. AND she managed to write a tortuous, dramatic love story without melodrama or saccharine sweetness. This will most definitely be in my top 10 this year.
Peggy
A wonderful big novel that took me a week to read. This was published posthumously in 1936. It's considered a "social issues" novel, but I disagree, because it’s so much more. The issues rise believably out of the lives of the characters. The novel is framed by the business of local government in the area—southeast Yorkshire. Most of the story revolves around Sarah Burton, the new headmistress of the local girls’ high school, and Robert Carne, a local landowner and member of the Council. There a ...more
Amy
For various reasons, I had been reluctant to read South Riding – the six-page long character list which included a generous amount of aldermen, governors and councillors, the description of the book as “the great epic of local government”. But when I finally picked it up, I was surprised at how easy it was to get absorbed into the story. Winifred Holtby is excellent at moving the story along, even when nothing much happens (which was so often the case in this book) and despite the enormous amoun ...more
Laura
From BBC Radio 4:
Drama series about a new headmistress at a high school for girls.
Ruthiella
I put off reading my sixth “required reading” book for the 2014 Back to the Classics Challenge hosted by Karen at http://karensbooksandchocolate.blogsp... and decided to read this book first for the optional category of “Classic adapted in to a Movie or TV Series”. I thought it would be a light, heartwarming read to buffer me before I jumped in to From Here to Eternity. Boy, was I mistaken about the tone of this book.

South Riding is an uncompromising look at the lives of the inhabitants in the
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Sverre
== Multihued tapestry of memorable characters ==

In spite of its good reputation I was leery to buy this novel because of its list of almost two hundred characters and a plotline involving local government affairs in 1930s Yorkshire, England. But I need not have worried. The reader is eased into familiarity with the twenty or so main characters chapter by chapter and never has to endure following dreary administrative proceedings. Although Holtby chose fictitious names to the characters, cities,
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Winifred Holtby was a committed socialist and feminist who wrote the classic "South Riding" as a warm yet sharp social critique of the well--to-do farming community she was born into.

She was a good friend of Vera Brittain, possibly portraying her as Delia in "The Crowded Street".

She died at the age of 37.
More about Winifred Holtby...
The Crowded Street The Land of Green Ginger Anderby Wold Poor Caroline Mandoa, Mandoa!: A Comedy of Irrelevance

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“We're so busy resigning ourselves to the inevitable that we don't even ask if it is inevitable. We've got to have courage, to take our future into our hands. If the law is oppressive, we must change the law. If tradition is obstructive, we must break tradition. If the system is unjust, we must reform the system.” 13 likes
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