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South Riding: An English Landscape (Fiction) Unknown Binding – 1936


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  • Unknown Binding
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B001OP51VS
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (70 customer reviews)

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

81 of 82 people found the following review helpful By steve b on 16 Jan. 2007
Format: Paperback
One of the best portrails of English provincial life ever written, South Riding is on a par with the best of Arnold Bennett in it's depiction of 'big fish in little ponds.' The story revolves about a headmistress who arrives to take over a girls high school in a depressed northern town in the nineteen thirties. Other figures include a number of local councillors, a talented but poor girl with a host of brothers and sisters to look after and the local squire and his highly strung daughter.

Winifred Holtby was a strong socialist and she could have made stock villans from the local bigwigs and heros out of the working class. What she does do however is create real people with good and bad sides. The local squire is shown to real prtoblems of his own, a mad wife and daughter and no money, while some of the working class fiqures are shown to be shiftless. In its humanity this book is on a par with its near contempory 'Grapes of Wraith.' It is also a very good read with a host of figures remarkable in their realism.

Winifred Holtby died young and this is her only major work. Indeed she knew she was dying as she wrote it. Read it and it will not let you down.

The nineteen seventies TV series is a good adoptation also worth a look.

If you want to known what it was like to live in nineteen thirties provincial England this book will tell you. One of the best books I have ever read.
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56 of 57 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on 7 April 2009
Format: Paperback
South Riding is subtitled An English Landscape, and it is just that, a landscape made up of people.

Sarah Burton is a dedicated and idealistic teacher who returns to her home county to become headmistress of a girls' high school.

Emma Beddows is the first woman alderman in the district and her work is the focus of her life now that her children are grown.

The dialogues and the developing relationship between those two dedicated but different women are quite wonderful, and there is much more besides.

Robert Carne is a county councilor and a struggling gentleman farmer. His wife is in an asylum and he worries that their daughter Midge will inherit her mental illness.

Lydia Holly loves learning and Sarah believes she has more potential than any other child she has taught but, when her mother dies after one pregnancy too many, her father pulls her out of school to look after her younger siblings.

And so many more - councilors, teachers, pupils, farm workers, townsfolk, all of the people that make up a community and all with their own story.

Their paths, of course, cross and Winifred Holtby tells all of their stories, mixing them and balancing them perfectly.

The characterization is absolutely wonderful, right across the social spectrum.

And there are so many wonderful words and ideas, so many wonderful moments. I really can't praise this book enough.

South Riding is a quite wonderful picture of provincial England in the 1930s.
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31 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Katie Stevens on 4 Feb. 2011
Format: Paperback
South Riding is set in Yorkshire in the first half of the 1930s, focusing on the everyday lives of the people who live there. There is Sarah Burton, the new headmistress of the girlsf school who returns to the area armed with progressive ideas and is determined to make a difference; there is Mrs Beddows, the councilfs 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 care for his mad wife and fragile daughter while not losing his tenuous hold on his lands. The book chronicles their struggles, sometimes against each other, sometimes alongside one another for a common cause, and those of a whole host of other characters.

The cast of this novel is huge, with more than a hundred characters (listed handily after the introduction), but it never feels overpopulated or confusing. In fact, they are what makes South Riding such a great read. I felt as though I knew each and every one of those characters, even if we only had a nodding acquaintance. It is testament to Winifred Holtbyfs writing skill that she manages to create such a wide variety of characters with equal authenticity; I believe in Midge Carne, who is young, female, highly strung and unthinkingly cruel, just as much as I believe in Castle, who is an elderly, male, gentle salt of the earth type. I particularly liked the fact that no character is as straightforward as they at first seem, and not in a gimmicky everyone-has-a-dark-secret way, but in a these-are-all-real-people-with depth way. They arenft defined by their quirks, but these help to gain a deeper insight into the characters and why they behave the way they do. Councillor Snaith at home with his cats was a particular favourite of mine.
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53 of 55 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 13 May 2000
Format: Paperback
One of the best books I have ever read, and undoubtedly a classic of 20th century literature, this book provides as authentic a portrait of 1930's England as has yet been put to paper. With its huge cast of characters, the narrative encompasses all aspects of human life, and Winifred Holtby achieves a depth of characterisation which would be the envy of most living authors. Buy it and enjoy!
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