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South Riding

3.94  ·  Rating details ·  2,179 ratings  ·  245 reviews
Winner of the James Tait Black Memorial Prize, Winifred Holtby's greatest novel was published posthumously

Winifred Holtby's masterpiece is a rich evocation of the lives and relationships of the characters of South Riding. Sarah Burton, the fiery young headmistress of the local girls' school; Mrs Beddows, the district's first alderwoman—based on Holtby's own mother; and Rob
Paperback, 492 pages
Published April 12th 2011 by Virago (first published 1936)
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Emma Rose Ribbons
Apr 15, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: cosy
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
Describing a book as the great novel of 1930s English local government and regional newspapers, is not the most ringing of endorsements. Another way to approach this mosaic novel is to, with slight misdirection, describe it as another modern Jane Eyre, or properly speaking Holtby plays with some tropes of Romantic fiction and it occurred to me (particularly given my vast, rich knowledge of romantic fiction) that the trail ran quickly to Miss Eyre and her not so demonic lover Mr Rochester.

In plac
Jun 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: virago
This is Winifred Holtby’s last novel and she wrote knowing of her own imminent death. It is both vast and narrow in its scope at the same time. Its length and the varied and large array of characters reminded me of Victorian novelists like Eliot and Dickens. There are over 160 characters in the character list. It is set in Yorkshire in a fictional South Riding. The geographical area is the one Holtby grew up in and is in actuality the East Riding of Yorkshire, the area just north of the Humber c ...more
Nov 22, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It is 1932 and Sarah Burton returns to Yorkshire as a newly appointed headmistress with a gift to teach and a desire to awaken interest in her young pupils. She brings courage and optimism along with a feisty and impetuous nature. Sarah finds her new role in the small town challenging as she encounters town politics and staff problems. Her set plans are disrupted and she becomes uncertain of her future.

Holtby writes wonderfully on local government issues and town hierarchy. Her characters are se
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
Jan 24, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2011, virago, 1930s
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
Absolutely adored, enjoyed and loved this book! If you enjoy sweeping English novels with a pastoral setting and social commentary this book is definitely for you.

Much like Middlemarch by George Eliot and The Warden by Anthony Trollope. Which commentate on social institutions such as church, and small town government. I would argue, South Riding falls into the same category.

Richly written, with characters that come to life, this book, although a little slow at times, has quickly become a favori
Feb 22, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
May 10, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
Helene Jeppesen
This book deals with the community of South Riding in the 1930s, and in it we encounter a variety of characters who are very different from each other, but who all have South Riding in common.
While this novel was entertaining, I wouldn't call it a favourite of mine. There is a great set of characters to keep track of, and only some of the chapters kept my attention 100%.
However, there is something nice and pleasant about reading of a community in which everyone knows everyone. It definitely ke
Beth Bonini
May 21, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Morticia Adams
Apr 14, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: books-i-own
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
Resh (The Book Satchel)
South RidingA big book with a four page character list is not something I would generally pick. But I am so glad I did. Read this if you want to get lost in idyllic prose set in a neighborhood in old Yorkshire. As you read you will stumble upon beautiful phrases such as "slapped the kettle on the stove" and "fastened it at the throat with a cameo brooch" strewn over a slow narrative.

This is the story of a multitude of characters, flawed and imperfect as may be' yet with an undeniable charm. Be i
Charmaine Anderson
Jan 29, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 21, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
May 08, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: re-reading
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
Nov 15, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015, classics
Sometimes you just get the feeling that while you liked a book on the first reading, you know you are going to develop a true love for it on future reads. I guess time will tell if I'm right there, but this was a really lovely book.

The book took some time to get moving for me, truth be told I was uncertain of it for quite a time. Part of the problem there was the huge cast of characters. I groaned a little when my kindle edition started with a list of characters six pages long. The trouble wit
Feb 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I finished this at 4 this morning weeping with just how good it is (one of those that should be 6 stars) This will be one my books to hand out at airports.
Tanja Berg
Mar 25, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Elena T. (Eleanor26th)
Neanche la fittizia contea di South Riding, nello Yorkshire, è risparmiata alla morsa della grande depressione degli anni Trenta del Novecento. Nonostante tutto, la comunità è in fermento per l’elezione del nuovo consigliere comunale, il socialista Joe Astell che ha scavalcato il favorito Robert Carne. Ma, in modo forse maggiore, la contea tutta è interessata alla scelta della nuova direttrice  per la scuola femminile di South Riding.

Ecco che sopraggiunge la nostra protagonista, rossi capelli e
Apr 24, 2016 rated it really liked it
Being a Yorkshire girl, born and bred as they say, I was looking forward to reading this book by fellow Yorkshire woman, Winifred Holtby. Winifred died in her 30's from kidney disease and was dying whilst writing this book. It was published by her friend and fellow author, Vera Britten.

I didn't get into the story immediately in large measure because of the huge cast of characters. But by half way I was immersed in the world of South Riding and it's people.

The story is one of much sadness, not s
South Riding looks at a small community in Yorkshire in the 1930's. We see the impact of the first great war by reading about the handicapped veterans and a larger amount of independent, unmarried woman. We are acquainted with the fear already coming from Germany and Italy, years before the start of World War 2. (Much of the comments and fears are eerily similar to those heard over the past two weeks.) We see the lives of the poor, the socialists, the farmers and the politicians. We see the conf ...more
Lynn Weber
Jun 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: novels
This novel was so much more than I expected. I thought it would be a charming, clever read--which it was--but it was also profound and literary. It's the story of a confident, spunky woman in the 1930s who comes to Kiplington to be headmistress of a girl's school. The novel flits among the local cast of characters--the crafty businessman, the handsome landowner, the local drunk, the smart girl, the matriarch of the county council--making each one so much more complex than they had to be. In the ...more
Jul 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
What I especially like about this novel is the storytelling. It is a long book with many chapters, but each chapter feels like a complete short story in itself, with its own mood, plot and characters. Some chapters are humorous, many are dramatic, some are romantic, a few tragic. The characters reappear in the various chapters and interact with the others and by the end a complete picture emerges of the people and places of the imaginary Yorkshire community of South Riding. The characters’ pers ...more
Dec 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: british
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
Jul 11, 2015 rated it really liked it
I guess you're meant to sympathise with the main protagonist, Miss Burton, who is the right kind of spinster--despite her quirks and her angular features and her red hair (good or bad depending on who you talk to), she's well- adjusted and charming. There's one Miss Sigglesthwaite, however, who's the Doomed Spinster, who was meant for a lifetime of research and learning and instead became a teacher, and is ill-adjusted to the work, but because of her position (she has to care for her mother) she ...more
Nov 11, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Moloch by: Dal sito della casa editrice Elliot
Questo libro mi ha sorpreso. In più di un punto ha preso direzioni che non mi aspettavo. Mi ha anche coinvolto e ha lanciato il suo messaggio senza cadere nel dogmatismo. I personaggi sono vivi, per la maggior parte (non tutti) sono tratteggiati con la giusta dose di luci e ombre, e alla fine ci si appassiona alle loro storie.
Quindi, nonostante NON mi sia piaciuto al 100% senza se e senza ma (anzi, sono perplessa soprattutto sul modo abbastanza precipitoso e bizzarro di sviluppare (view spoiler)
Aug 12, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a much more thoughtful book than I expected, not at all a standard romance or saga. The motivations of even the least sympathetic characters are explored with kindness, and the unreturned love of a woman in her seventies for a much younger man is shown with great insight - as is the more passionate love of a younger woman for the same man.
Leanne (Booksandbabble)
3-4 stars.I cant quite decide yet :D
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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.
“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.” 30 likes
“But questioning does not mean the end of loving, and loving does not mean the abnegation of intelligence” 12 likes
More quotes…