There is Sarah Burton, fiery young headmistress; Robert Carne of Maythorpe Hall, a councillor tormented by his own disastrous marriage; Jo Astell, a socialist fighting poverty and his own illness; and Mrs Beddows, the first woman Alderman of the district (like Winifred's own mother). They are the people who work together in the council chambers and backrooms of local politics. Alongside them, however, are the people affected by their decisions.
©2009 Winifred Holtby; (P)2009 BBC Audiobooks Ltd
Audiobooks have literally changed my life. I now actually ENJOY doing mindless chores because they give me plenty of listening time!
I wanted to love this book, but a huge cast of characters involved with local Yorkshire politics—politics being a topic which I shrink away from—did not exactly win me over in the beginning. Soon, some key figures emerged, namely Sarah Burton, the new and youngish headmistress at the local high school, and Robert Carne, a broke and principled landowner and descendant from a venerable family regarded locally as a lord—if not in actuality, then figuratively. Little by little, as the politics took a secondary place and the various individuals became more fleshed out, in this poor community between the wars struggling to improve the lot of it's residents, I was pulled in by their various stories and struggles. I eventually found myself truly caring about Sarah and Carne, the modern and independent clever woman falling in love with the older man defeated by personal tragedy. And County Alderman Mrs Beddows,—at first seeming like a mere figurehead as the first Alderman woman (apparently as Holtby's own mother was)—a married septuagenarian more than a little bit in love with Carne too, earned my affection in the end. A book I feel I should have appreciated more than I did, and which I may very likely revisit eventually.
Carole Boyd is one of my favourite narrators and delivers a flawless performance as always.
I really liked the finely crafted, very human characters in this book and the way Holtby has skilfully brought them and their inmost thoughts, hopes, fears, successes and failures to life. Set in the fictional Yorkshire South Riding, the book describes the machinations behind the scenes of local government as well as the love two very different women bear for gentleman farmer Robert Carne, who has seen better days. There are many poignant moments and some beautiful descriptions of the Yorkshire coast and countryside. The story drags a bit at the end but is otherwise an absorbing listen.
I came to this after seeing the tv series and enjoyed it just as much. What started out as an apparently dry account of local council activities expanded into a wonderful and moving story.
Many have pointed out a Jane Eyre connection in reading this book. But, having just finished A Casual Vacancy before diving into the lives of South Riding I am inclined to think that perhaps JKR has also spent time with the characters then took a 90º turn and wrote a raw story for today's world with South Riding peopling her imagination.
South Riding, in it's time, was just as raw and vivid as JKR's Vacancy. It helped me to understand some of the thought processes on both sides of the conservative and liberal thinkers in England's 1930s.
And in the end we are shown the effect of politics on the lives of those living in South Riding. It provides insight into the thought processes of those trying to determine for themselves, and others around them, a better way to deal with the pains, sorrows, wickedness and joys that life has handed to them.
The story was absorbing and well written, though along with it comes the final paragraphs with a long and drawn out moral to the story. I understand why Holtby would use the story as a platform to voice her beliefs - it was the 1930s and there was much that needed to be said. However, by that point in the book I had already wrapped the story up in my mind and was ready to turn out the light.
I watched the dvd version of the book and needed to more about the characters. I thought the book was wonderful. I really felt for the characters in the book. This this the first book of Winifred Holtby that I read and love the details she gave us. Felt like I was right there with them.
"South Riding re-visited"
I first read Winifred Holtby's South Riding more than 35 years ago and loved it. The writing is wonderful and the story moving and uplifting. In 1974 I watched the Yorkshire Television dramatisation with Dorothy Tutin and Nigel Davenport - a true adaptation and captivating. So I came to the unabridged audio version with high hopes and expectations. It didn't disappoint. It is beautifully read by Carole Boyd. If you only know her from her incarnation as the shrill Linda Snell in the Archers then be prepared for a surprise. She has a sensitive, versatile voice which picks up every nuance of the written word. I loved this audio experience. Without doubt the best listen of my audio year.
I took me some time to get into it. But then I could hardly put down my earphones intrigued by the story as well as the wonderful listening. Probably not the book you like to read whilst roasting on the beach but being snuggled up on a sofa with a cup of tea and biscuits or a long journey you do not have to concentrate on the traffic.
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