It is a very sweet and pleasing book ... a very fragrant, charming book. --The Observer, October 6th, 1912
... it is a really fine bit of work ... which will be appreciated by all who know good fiction when they come across it.
--The Sunday Times, November 10th, 1912
"Windyridge" was a literary sensation when it was first published in 1912. It was re-printed many times by publishers Herbert Jenkins but, like its modest author, Willie Riley, who wrote purely to amuse friends and had to be persuaded much against his will to submit the MS for publication, for over 50 years it has remained largely forgotten.
With this new edition, the original text reproduced in its entirety and attractively complemented by photographs taken by Riley himself, Northern Heritage Publications has resurrected a long-lost masterpiece, in its day hailed as the new "Cranford" and offering a new generation of readers the opportunity to become acquainted with a book of great charm and humour.
At this point I must put up my hand and admit to being a long-time Riley devotee: fortunately, following the huge success of his debut novel, the author went on to produce many more, in the process, to his own evident amazement, becoming a household name. A search in second-hand bookshops has all too rarely been rewarded with the discovery of a Riley gem, of which there are a total of 39. There still remain many titles I have been unable to track down, however.
All of which makes this splendid new edition especially welcome. But adding even more to the pleasure is the informative introduction by Riley scholar David M. Copeland - almost a book in itself! - detailing the fascinating "story behind the story" and Willie Riley's life, from his birth in 1866 to a Bradford mill manager to his death in 1961. For 20 years Willie and his four brothers ran a magic lantern business, gaining fame and fortune in the early years of the cinema. At the age of 46 Willie gave up commerce to concentrate on his new career as a professional writer, going on to achieve even greater success.
Copeland relates how Willie accepted a challenge to write a story from a woman's point of view, and so Grace Holden, a young Londoner who "feels the pull of the heather and moves to the isolated Yorkshire village of Windyridge" was born. He succeeded so well that early reviewers were under the impression that the author was female: "Although the publisher's note on the wrapper speaks of Mr Riley, one suspects from the internal evidence that the author is of the other sex; the men in the book are a woman's men, the gentle sentiment of the story and its whole outlook upon humanity are essentially feminine," asserted "The Bookman."
It's these homely, down-to-earth qualities that made "Windyridge" and its successors such a hit with the public - the "soaps" of their day! Willie Riley wrote compelling, true-to-life tales of Yorkshire folk with a diverse cast of characters much loved by readers who couldn't get enough of his books: in response to persistent demands, he wrote a sequel to "Windyridge" and in his lifetime was acclaimed as the "father of the Yorkshire Novel," with over one million sales to his credit.
Willie Riley's re-emergence as an author of great merit is well over-due and deserved.
--Valley Life, May 2010