Search Site
This site uses cookies to deliver our services, improve performance, for analytics, and (if not signed in) for advertising. By using LibraryThing you acknowledge that you have read and understand our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your use of the site and services is subject to these policies and terms.
Hide this

Results from Google Books

Click on a thumbnail to go to Google Books.


South Riding (1936)

by Winifred Holtby

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
8543920,654 (4.04)2 / 355
After the death of her fiancé, an ambitious young woman returns home to a depressed, post-World War I Yorkshire village to become headmistress of the local girls' school.
  1. 20
    Middlemarch by George Eliot (Booksloth)
  2. 10
    The Headmistress by Angela Thirkell (thorold)
    thorold: Sarah Burton and Miss Sparling may be poles apart in political terms, but it's fun to see how much Thirkell's idea of a headmistress overlaps with Holtby's, despite that.
  3. 00
    Haweswater by Sarah Hall (fountainoverflows)
    fountainoverflows: A study of a community confronted "progress". Carefully developed characters and a love story to boot.

Sign up for LibraryThing to find out whether you'll like this book.

» See also 355 mentions

English (38)  Italian (1)  All languages (39)
Showing 1-5 of 38 (next | show all)
A glorious tapestry of lives and ambitions, populating a small community over two years with their loves, intrigues, greed, and tragedy. Punctuated by occasional speechifying. Over the whole thing hangs the knowledge that Holtby was gravely ill and only finished the novel a month before she died. ( )
  adzebill | Apr 28, 2022 |
This felt a bit like an updated Trollope. It had been on my To Be Read list for a long time. I'm very glad I finally got to it. Good characters (something I'm always looking for). Interesting look at small town politics in Britain between the wars. A good read, though not a quick one. ( )
  njcur | Jan 25, 2022 |
Full disclosure: I began [South Riding] in mid-August this year of covid, 2020, and I have only finished it now at the end of November. Why did I put it down? Because of the times we are in and my own state of mind, yes. In earlier days (what we call "Before Times" around here) I would not have put it down, although, as I will get to, I would note the shift in tone about 2/3rds through the book and I would add that the shift disappointed me. It's a curious feature of novel-writing that you write along mining a vein for awhile, but then you come along to, exactly as in real life, a crucial moment when a choice must be made and what you then, as the writer, decide your characters will do or how they will react to an event (even if you choose to say, "the character made me do it") the book will definitively move into a final direction. Sometimes the shift is highly original and intriguing, or breathtaking, expanding outward into the unknown, at other times, there is a failure of nerve or imagination and the protagonist doesn't take the leap, choose to fold back on his or herself, there are thousands of ways these choices can play out so that sometimes the choice to fold inward, becomes (somehow) an expanding outward. This, is, I think what Holtby intended and that is pretty much exactly where I put the book down, overwhelmed. Embedded within this story of a town in Yorkshire, the new headmistress of the girl's school, the town council and the growing pains in the early 1930's of the area. is a love story. Well, several love stories, but only one is central. Robert Carne, the local squire, wants to maintain things as they are, but his life is a mess, his wife mad and requiring housing in an institution. She is a true aristocrat (whereas Carne is of the olde landed gentry ilk and this marriage was a disaster for all concerned.) He runs his farms well, but the expenses of his wife's care have ruined him. Schemes abound but Carne, caught up in his belief in his way of life, cannot see that he must change, compromise orlose. Two women adore Carne, an older woman, Mrs. Beddows, also a Councilwoman and the new headmistress who reluctantly falls in love with him. The best story here, the most original and moving, is the love Mrs. Beddows holds for Robert Carne, twenty years her junior. I went back to the novel at last for her sake. There is a moment where she admits to the younger woman, the headmistress, that her love for Carne has been confusing, that you look in the mirror and see three score and ten, but inside you're just a girl. I'm old enough now to know that and know how poignant an emotion that is. Well worth reading, this novel. Worth also knowing that Holtby was dying as she finished this, her last, and I do think the choice she made, to turn inward, was part of her own reconciliation with her approaching death. ****1/2 ( )
6 vote sibylline | Nov 29, 2020 |
This novel rivals Middlemarch for its microcosmic view of English rural life and its insights into the characters who inhabit their particular area of the countryside. Several of the covers offer a woman's face, suggesting that Sarah Burton is the focal point of the novel, but I am afraid pigeonholes this novel as a story just as a woman's novel when it is far better than that. Just as Middlemarch is more than Dorothea Brooks, South Riding is about human nature and how even the most ordinary of us struggle to make the best of our limitations, whether they be physical, intellectual, or spiritual. Flawed as we all are, our commonalities make us a community worth fighting for, not blindly, but as fully grounded in our values as possible.And what is best about this book is that it does not minimize those flaws, or the personal pain and guilt we inflict upon ourselves for being flawed. As one character tells another, "'And who are you to think you could get through life without pain? Did you expect never to be ashamed of yourself? Of course this hurts you. And it will go on hurting. You needn't believe much what they say about time healing. I've had seventy years and more of time and there are plenty of things in my life still won't bear thinking of. You've just got to get along as best you can with all your shames and sorrows and humiliations. Maybe in the end it's those things arte most use to you." It is up to each of us to decide what we will do about our shames, sorrows and humiliations, but the novel makes clear that we all have to carry them forward with us. ( )
  PatsyMurray | May 24, 2020 |
South Riding is a pleasant sweep of a fictional countryside set in 1930s Yorkshire. The characters are colourful and span multiple generations. Holtby gives a sharp and often humorous account of local government and how it affects parties ranging from gentry to farmers. Through headmistress Sarah Burton, you also glimpse Holtby's particular interests as a feminist and pacifist.

The ending isn't traditional; this isn't a run-of-the-mill romance; what you have in Holtby's last work, written when she knew these words would be her last, is an engaging insight into a countryside community at a crossroads. ( )
  jigarpatel | Jan 25, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 38 (next | show all)
Holtby understood the necessity of conveying progressive ideas to the widest possible readership, of the kind that Woolf scorned in her essay "The Middlebrow".
added by thorold | editThe Guardian, Mark Bostridge (Feb 19, 2011)

» Add other authors (4 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Holtby, Winifredprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Boyd, CaroleNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Brittain, VeraEpitaphsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Cooper, LetticeIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Shaw, MarionIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sommerfelt, AiméeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Williams, ShirleyPrefacesecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
You must log in to edit Common Knowledge data.
For more help see the Common Knowledge help page.
Canonical title
Original title
Alternative titles
Original publication date
Important places
Important events
Related movies
Awards and honors
"Take what you want," said God. "Take it---and pay for it."

Old Spanish Proverb
Quoted in This Was My World by Viscountess Rhondda.
"I tell the things I know, the things I knew
Before I knew them, immemorially;
And as the fieldsman with unhurrying tread
Trudges with steady and unchanging pace,
Being born to clays that in the winter hold,
So my pedestrian measure gravely plods
Telling a loutish life."

V. Sackville-West
The Land.
First words
Young Lovell Brown, taking his place for the first time in the Press Gallery of the South Riding County Hall at Flintonbridge, was prepared to be impressed by everything.
Winifred Holtby, who had met my mother in the autumn of 1919, when both were students at Somerville College, Oxford, was, like her, a writer. (Preface)
In February 1935 Winifred Holtby, staying in Hornsea on the Yorkshire coast in order to escape the distractions and fatigue of life in London, wrote to her friend Vera Brittain to say that she had received 'a very nice letter from Virginia Woolf asking if I would like to write an autobiography for the Hogarth Press'. (Introduction)
South Riding is the last novel that Winifred Holtby will write. (Epitaph)
I was born to be a spinster, and by God, I'm going to spin.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
Original language
Canonical DDC/MDS
Canonical LCC

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English


After the death of her fiancé, an ambitious young woman returns home to a depressed, post-World War I Yorkshire village to become headmistress of the local girls' school.

No library descriptions found.

Book description
"Take what you want,' says God.  'Take it and pay for it,' 'Ah,' said Mrs. Beddows quietly. 'But who pays?'"  This, Winifred Holtby's greatest work, is a rich and memorable evocation of the characters of the South Riding, their lives, loves and sorrow.  There is Sarah Burton, fiery young headmistress, inspired by educational ideas; Robert Carne of Maythorpe Hall, a conservative councillor, tormented by his disastrous marriage; Jo Astell, a socialist fighting poverty and his own tuberculosis; Alf Huggins, haulage contractor and lay preacher of 'too, too solid flesh'; Mrs. Beddows, the first woman Alderman of the district, and the obsequious Snaith.  These are the people who work together - and against one another - in council chambers and backroom caucuses.  Alongside them are the men, women and children affected by their decisions: Tom Sawdon, landlord of the Nag's Head; the flamboyant Madame Hubbard of the local dancing school; young Lydia Holly who dreams of scholarship and many more.

Winifred Holtby (1893-1935), born at Rudston, Yorkshire, was a journalist, critic, feminist, pacifist and author of six novels, South Riding (1936), winner of the James Tait Black Memorial Prize, is 'a triumph of personality, a testament to its author's undaunted philosophy." - Vera Brittain
Haiku summary

Popular covers

Quick Links


Average: (4.04)
1 2
2 8
2.5 2
3 17
3.5 12
4 70
4.5 17
5 47

Is this you?

Become a LibraryThing Author.


About | Contact | Privacy/Terms | Help/FAQs | Blog | Store | APIs | TinyCat | Legacy Libraries | Early Reviewers | Common Knowledge | 171,816,087 books! | Top bar: Always visible