Ali's Reviews > South Riding

South Riding by Winifred Holtby
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Feb 22, 11

Read in February, 2011

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 character - seems to be a portrait - at least in part of Winifred Holtby's mother, herself a local councillor who became (like Mrs Beddows) the first woman Alderman.
This novel is actually quite sad, although there are many uplifting moments too. Winifred Holtby was uncompromising in her portrayal of life as it was in the 1930's, both socially and politically. We see the few chances given to women and the sacrifices made by many bright young girls, the hardship and the poverty and the desperation of those finding themselves in difficulty. There is a conspiracy of corruption at the council, backbiting and gossip, all of which help to bring a good man down. The poignant story of Sarah and Robert Carne is the one at the centre of the novel, is wonderfully romantic on the one hand without ever descending into sentimentality. Alongside that story though we that of Lydia Holly - whose family live in "the shacks" a group of old railway carriages, Lydia dreamsof scholarship and learning. Carne's daughter Midge - the same age as Lydia but from a very different background is rather wild, her mother is in a mental hospital, for a time the girls come togther under the watchful eye of the new headmistress Sarah Burton. Meanwhile at the Nag's head, Tom Sawdon is unaware of his wife's illness. So much human drama in just under 500 pages! A fantastic read.
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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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message 1: by LindyLouMac (new)

LindyLouMac Although it is many years ago that I read this (1969) it is one of those books that I remember having throughly enjoyed.


Beth Bonini I started watching this last Sunday night. It was "signposted" pretty obviously, (in terms of how the plot and relationships would develop), but I'm still looking forward to seeing the rest of it. After reading your review, I feel that I want to read it, too.


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