South Riding – Winifred Holtby

I watched the recent BBC adaptation of South Riding  and had to read the novel.

The novel is much darker than the TV series – lots of death, poverty and squalor.

Here is the blurb …

 This s Winifred Holtby’s greatest novel – A rich evocation which explores the lives and relationships of the characters of South Riding. Sarah Burton, the fiery young headmistress of the local girl’s school; Mrs Beddows, the district’s first alderwomen – based on Holtby’s own mother; and Robert Carne, the conservative gentleman-farmer locked in a disastrous marriage – with whom the radical Sarah Burton falls in love. Showing how public decisions can mould the individual and strongly echoing Middlemarch, South Riding offers a panoramic and unforgettable view of Yorkshire life.

It was beautifully written. Very evocative of a particular time and place (Yorkshire between the wars). It had a broader outlook (quite modern really) compared to other novels published about the same time (i.e Dorothy Whipple). Its focus is on the community of South Riding and the various personalities that impact on the community. From the scheming Mr Snaith (some things never change), ideological Joe Astley and the very conservative Robert Carne – he seems to be against the council spending any money.

Although I thoroughly enjoyed reading this novel, I have some reservations about recommending it. It is very bleak, there is illness (measles, cancer and heart disease), poverty and grime. I think if you’re ill or know someone who is ill, you should avoid this one for a while.

Here are some other reviews … 

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