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South Riding

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The main protagonist of the novel is Sarah Burton, newly appointed headmistress of a girl’s school, moving back to the area of her birth; she is 40, single, a socialist and committed to the education of women. For me that's a plus; literature should deal with big ideas, and the structure of society and purpose of government are certainly that. There is old, clear tape to the exterior corners and spine ends as well as along the length of the spine edges and flap folds. Worth seeking out by the sound of things, especially with Ralph Richardson in a key role…I’ll have a look for it. South Riding is a rich, panoramic novel, and Winifred Holtby brings vividly to life a rural community on the brink of change.

Yet this reception failed to appease Mrs Holtby, who promptly resigned from the East Riding County Council when the novel appeared, denouncing it as a "travesty". In the novel, the next time they meet Sarah doesn't bring it up but the anger and embarrassment fuel her confrontational mood, with the result they have a full on fight about their usual issues, part in mutual anger, and since he then immediately has his fatal accident that makes everyone believe he committed suicide for a while, she feels awful and guilty, thinks about resigning and is talked out of it by Mrs Beddowes (the female alderman modelled after Holtby's mother). Accompanied by the original glassine WRAPPER which is complete and the original publisher's card box with its printed label indicating the limitation and book number '32'. Original green cloth, spine lettered in purple and a little faded at tips, top edge green largely faded, a few smalls spots to edges and foxing to preliminary pages, lower edge roughtrimmed, faint partial browning to free endpapers and a few faint spots. He knew, in spite of all the gossip to the contrary, that the Brittain-Holtby relationship had never been a lesbian one, but its closeness still rankled.

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We also meet Alderman Emma Beddows, a seventy-year-old woman almost certainly inspired in part by the author’s own mother, Alice Holtby.I somehow managed to miss out on Holtby when she was in vogue (I think I read one of them, but now haven’t the first clue which it was, if indeed I did. South Riding is a character-driven book, and works brilliantly, because the characterization is brilliant. And it is chance that makes progressive, idealistic Burton fall in love with the local squire Robert Carne, a symbolic figure of reaction, who opposes the expansion of local government and the widespread benefits it would bring.

In some ways I wish I’d discovered it as a young girl, closer in age to Lydia Holly than I am these days. She would have remained what she was, conscientious, energetic, efficient, compassionate, with a justifiable confidence in herself and her powers. An author writing this story today would no doubt be condemned as anachronistic, but since it really is an old book, I'm happy to praise it for being just as relevant now as when it was written.Indeed, she analysed it with critical precision in her study of Virginia Woolf, published in 1932 (the first biographical and critical work on Woolf to appear in Britain). You can unsubscribe from our list at any point by changing your preferences, or contacting us directly. In this context with Carne there is one piece of information, a marital rape, which the reader knows (eventually), but Courtesy of the BBC iPlayer, I got around to watching a BBC three parter based on a novel which I found captivating in parts and deeply frustrating in others. A good education is the best route out of poverty for Lydia, just as it proved to be the making of Sarah herself.

The novel was adapted for the cinema in 1938 starring Edna Best as Sarah Burton, Ralph Richardson as Robert Carne and Edmund Gwenn as Alfred Huggins.When circumstances conspire to force Lydia to leave school, Sarah must find a way of enabling her to come back. She also had a successful career in journalism and wrote the first critical study of Virginia Woolf in English.

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