South Riding

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South Riding

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Jan. 7, 2011, 11:58am

Because so many of us are reading this wonderful book, I thought it would be nice if comments are in one spot.

I have 80 pages to go because I couldn't do anything yesterday but read. Selfishly, I wish that Holtby had not died so young. I'm sure she would have written a sequel eventually to follow the South Riding community through WWII and the aftermath. She has so many creative years left...

Jan. 7, 2011, 12:02pm

Thanks for starting this thread! I'm only about 20 pages in and have a busy few weeks ahead, so no idea when I'll finish. But I'm already loving it!

Jan. 9, 2011, 12:59pm

I feel the same way and to think that i almost missed out on this most amazing author. Like many people I came upon Winifred Holtby via Vera Brittain, however I'm not a fan of her fiction at all and despite knowing that Winifred was by far the more talented of the two, I'm afraid she was guilty by association as far as I was concerned - how wrong could I have been?
There's a new BBC adaptation forthcoming but other than an tv tie in edition and a mention on forthcoming programmes, I can't find a date for it.

Jan. 9, 2011, 1:04pm

In fact I'm going to re-read it . I've just bought the latest Virago edition to complement my original green VMC because I loved the cover so much.

Jan. 9, 2011, 1:54pm

I finished South Riding yesterday. It was one of those books I didn't want to end because I felt as though I knew all these people and wanted to what happened to them. How did they manage through WWII? What was the post war like in South Riding? Did certain characters get back together, finish university, run for office, recoup financial losses etc. A really satisfying read that I would love to discuss when we don't have to worry about spoiling it for folks who haven't read it.

Jan. 9, 2011, 3:57pm

I thought it was this month - it's mentioned in the Radio Times but without the date and time listed.

Jan. 10, 2011, 12:21pm

I am halfway through the second chapter, and am enjoying the way the story is piecing together via the many different perceptions of the characters. The blend of omniscient narration and words delivered by the characters themselves, either in dialogue or in thought, is very insightful, and well-written. Looking forward to reading the way it develops.

Jan. 14, 2011, 4:46pm

I am anxiously awaiting my larger print copy so that I can continue. The old, old mass market print was so tiny I just couldn't do it.
When I get it and get back into it, I will meet you all here once again.

Jan. 17, 2011, 8:10am

This is my first Virago read of 2011. My mum has been telling me to read it for years as it is one of her favourite books. Only a little way into the second chapter, but it's great so far. I'll be interested to see other people's thoughts as I get further.


Jan. 17, 2011, 9:04am

I just finished it last night. Can't wait to start our discussion!

Jan. 17, 2011, 9:09am

I don't even have the book!!!!!

Jan. 17, 2011, 11:04am

Well, see, Mother? That's your problem. South Riding is just the thing to cure your reading funk, but you have to have a copy.

Jan. 17, 2011, 4:47pm

She's right, Mary, it would.

Jan. 17, 2011, 10:21pm

>13 tiffin:: oh yes indeedy.

Jan. 18, 2011, 7:15am

South Riding is a practically perfect novel.

Jan. 18, 2011, 8:55am

I just got a copy in the post for joining the Virago Book Club. However, I already have the book in an old hardback '30s edition. This new one is a Virago paperback. If anyone in the UK wants it, please send me a message with your address and I'll post it to you.

Jan. 18, 2011, 9:11am

#16 I'd love a copy, please. I read the book years ago (more than 20 years) and I'd love to join in ths group read. I'm in UK.

Jan. 18, 2011, 9:31am

It's yours! Just send me your address and I'll post it tomorrow. :)

Jan. 18, 2011, 10:57am

Thanks, Helen. I've left you my address.

Thinking about it, I was in my early twenties when I read several Winifred Holtbys and that's now thirty years ago (twenty years was optimistic!) so this is likely to be almost new to me.

Jan. 19, 2011, 12:42pm

OK, I thought I'd start posting about the book a little:

From South Riding, early on in Book VII, chap 1:
"All through the year she and her family set themselves to accumulate the objects which she could bestow as gifts at Christmas. In a chest on the front landing known as the glory hole they stored the harvest of bazaars and birthdays, of rattles, bridge-drive prizes, bargain sales, and even presents which they themselves received at former Christmases. Into the glory hole went blotters, pen-wipers, and painted vases, dessert d'oylies, table-centres and imitation fruits of wax or velvet, knitted bed-jackets and embroidered covers for the Radio Times, all the bric-a-brac of civil exchange or time-killing occupation. The indictment of a social system lay in those drawers if they but knew it -- a system which overworks eight-tenths of its female population, and gives the remaining two-tenths so little to do that they must clutter the world with useless objects."

This is one of the things I am loving about this book -- its ability to give tactile, personal-feeling experiences while having resonance in social theory. The whole outline of the book, based on local government, sets this up, but the book doesn't get bogged down in it. Instead, Holtby gives us fully drawn characters, not caricatures. The strong outline does however give a strong structure, which helps give the story shape and dynamics.

I'm loving this book, and as I'm drawing near to the ending, have mixed feelings. I'm very impatient to find out what's going to happen to some of the characters. But I don't want the experience of reading the novel to come to an end just yet....

Jan. 19, 2011, 3:22pm

Wasn't that quotation just perfect! You picked one of the ones that had me rocking back in my chair, Mitford squealing with delight.

Jan. 19, 2011, 3:33pm

I'm fascinated by where the similarities and differences to what happens in local government 75 years later are.

How intriguing about embroidered covers for the Radio Times (presumably then as now a magazine, although the modern version actually gives more coverage to TV than radio).

Jan. 19, 2011, 4:25pm

YES!! D'you know that when I read that I immediately started thinking about embroidering a cover for our Radio Times (not that we buy it, but still)!

Jan. 20, 2011, 5:13am

My parents used to have a cover for the RT and TV Times (back when RT only did BBC 1 & 2 and TV Times only ITV). It wasn't embroidered though! The reference jumped out at me!

More seriously, I noticed the reference to someone presumed to have died in Dachau - Holtby was writing in the early/mid 30s, at a time when politicians claimed not to know what was happening on the continent ...

Jan. 20, 2011, 8:54am

I believe the book was written in 1934/35 in her last year of life - she died in 1935 and it came out in 1936. Where is the reference to Dachau? I don't think I spotted that.

Jan. 20, 2011, 9:28am

That passage struck me, too, as it took me by surprise to come across a reference to Dachau in a story set in the early thirties. It's in Book V, Chap 3 (page 253 of the VMC version):

"These rumours of Hitler's Nazi movement in Germany? There swam before her tired mind the memory of that summer holiday in the Black Forest, of tables outside a vine-wreathed inn, and Ernst, lean, brown, eager, in the khaki shirt and shorts worn by hundreds of young Communists -- drinking her health in beer after a strenuous walk. Ernst, who wanted peace and comradeship and a mystical unity of like-minded youth -- Ernst, whose mother had been a Jewess...Ernst, who had disappeared, and who had, some said, been beaten to death at the Dachau concentration camp. These things happened to one's friends.. They were important."

Jan. 20, 2011, 1:14pm

>24 Sakerfalcon:-26: I remember being struck by that passage as well. But what I was less conscious of when reading it was that politicians were claiming not to know what was going on. That makes it all the more interesting and sad.

Jan. 20, 2011, 2:33pm

The copy of South Riding which I ordered on November 16th for Socks just arrived in the mail today! It is a 2010 Virago, not a classic green one. But at long last it's here!

Jan. 20, 2011, 2:56pm

Oh dear tiffin - that took a while didn't it!

Hardly dare say (whisper) I too just received a copy in the post for joining the Virago Book Club.

Jan. 20, 2011, 3:49pm

Well, I'm glad to hear the other copy finally showed up! Whew!

If you prefer the classic green one, we can arrange a trade-off (that is, if we trust the mail after this incident), but I'm going to be selfish and ask not to do it until I've finished it -- almost there.....

Jan. 20, 2011, 3:53pm

I read the first book in Philip Kerr's Berlin Trilogy recently and that too had references to Dachau in the middle 30s. The book's hero winds up there after falling afoul of the Gestapo. No gas chamber though (I think) and the prisoners strictly German so I guess it was still considered more or less a regular prison and therefore their business.

Jan. 20, 2011, 4:25pm

>29 juliette07:, 30: *erm* I've just learned that it was a gift from another Viragoite, not the original order at all so I'm going to very gratefully just hang on to this one. It is a new copy, not the classic green so it is quite lovely and I am chuffed to bits about it. I'd love to tell you who sent it but don't know if she wants it announced in the square by the town crier or not.

Jan. 20, 2011, 8:11pm

Thanks, now you offer the whole quote I did read that bit.

By some coincidence, I'm now reading 2 books partly/wholly set in Eastern Europe in the late 30s, and earlier this month I read another novel set in Nazi Germany. So I really should have remembered it.

I wonder if I was in time to get a copy for joining the Book Club. I haven't received anything yet, and I thought I was quite quick to respond. I do have a green one, though, so I suppose I can't complain. Maybe it will be a future Book Club read.

Jan. 21, 2011, 4:58am

I've got a non-Virago one as well as the Beee-YOU-tiful one I seem to have got for joining the Virago Book Club, as it's not a green I'm going to take it to BookCrossing meetup tomorrow.

Ahhh... I've only read about 15 pages and remember why I loved it so on the first read. Just as good as Middlemarch...

Jan. 21, 2011, 6:32am

>34 LyzzyBee:: Just as good as Middlemarch...
I keep hearing that comparison. Must read Middlemarch.

Jan. 21, 2011, 1:40pm

Web of community, politics made interesting, everything seen from multiple viewpoints... I'm glad I'm not the only one anyway. Middlemarch is a fab holiday read...!

Jan. 21, 2011, 4:11pm

Yes, Liz, it is. I read it in my teens at the cottage, curled up in the screened in porch on the old davenport or beside the fire at night. Magic!

Jan. 21, 2011, 4:33pm

I last read Middlemarch on the beach in Tunisia (I took Henry James' "Portrait of a Lady" the previous time I went there)

Jan. 25, 2011, 10:36pm

Just wanted to say that I posted a few thoughts about South Riding on the "Virago Reading Week" thread, and didn't want to duplicate that same material right here, but did want to let fellow South Riding folks know about it. I did finish the book, and talk about a few specific things, but don't think there are any spoilers included; just some discussion of characterization, and how the overarching political themes are brought to the very important level of personal experience and feeling.

Bearbeitet: Feb. 6, 2011, 12:14pm

Enough has been said about this practically perfect social novel (or in my opinion, perfect novel), that I'm not going to talk about everything good in it. Instead, I want to mention my one very small quibble; the mad wife in the nursing home.

Now I know there are mad wives in families and they have to be cared for, but I wish that Holtby had used another plot line to explain Robert Carne's financial difficulties and his depression. Caring for his wife as he did does prove he is a man who loves deeply, is loyal and honorable, and is responsible, especially since he thinks he caused her madness by getting her pregnant. But I couldn't help thinking of Mrs Rochester in the attic. This seemed to me a bit of unnecessary sensationalism.

So many families lost their financial security as a result of WW1. If Robert's father died and then an older unmarried brother was killed in the war, Robert would have paid double death duties. Then, as shown in the novel, he still had to deal with the money-drain of running a losing enterprise. I believe this would have been more realistic than the plot device of using all his resources to maintain his wife in the best sanatorium. He would have had fewer ongoing debts and may have been able to break even running the farm.

But Holtby wanted Robert to have more than just financial worries so she threw the insane wife into the mix. This leads to his guilt over making her pregnant (did he rape her?) and his worries about the erratic behavior of his daughter.

So I think I talked myself into agreeing that the crazy wife was necessary to further Robert's story. Still, I wish Mrs. Rochester would just go away...

Feb. 6, 2011, 2:53pm

>40 Liz1564:: what an interesting've sent me off mulling this over for about half an hour, as I was coming at the "mad wife" from a completely different angle. I read her character and mental illness as a means to contrast with Sarah's normalcy and health, with the terror sex held for her versus Sarah's healthy sexuality. I also thought that things like post-partum depression simply weren't understood by the mostly male medical profession of that time, of how certain chemical depressive disorders in women were dismissed as "hysteria", etc. I did wonder how much of this went on, improperly diagnosed and untreated, although Mrs. Rochester didn't occur to me.

I also thought Holtby might be saying something implicitly about the wobbly state of the genetics of the upper crust, versus the hybrid vigour of the working and middle class in England. Robert married 'above his station' and got a pig in a poke, poor guy, bankrupting himself to keep his wife at the level he thought she must have. My modern sensibility thought he was daft to do this but I didn't grow up in a class system in this era, so I can't speak fairly to how someone might have felt about this.

Bearbeitet: Feb. 6, 2011, 3:33pm

Very good point! I like the genetics angle which, I confess, never even dawned on me. And Robert, being a farmer, would have been used to judging his stock by bloodline so did the poor man realize his daughter might one day go the same way as her mother?

Did Robert's wife fear sex? Or just sex with him? Or just childbirth? Her father brings up the question of whether the child is Robert's. I don't remember, so if anyone has just finished the book or is reading it now and comes across relevant passages, I would love to know.

Feb. 6, 2011, 3:45pm

>40 Liz1564:, 41: what an interesting discussion! I had a bit of Elaine's reaction but dismissed it as I read further, ending up in the "things like post-partum depression simply weren't understood by the mostly male medical profession of that time" camp.

The genetics angle is most intriguing. Oh how I wish we could sit down to tea with Winifred and hear what she was really thinking when she wrote.

Feb. 6, 2011, 3:55pm

Elaine - as someone who has written romance novels - isn't the formula to always have that mysterious, 'exotic', but bad woman in the background to make the heroine look even better?

My quibble was not about the mad wife but - why would a feminist woman fighting for all the things she was said to be fighting for, fall in love with a Tory landowner? I mean, what was that about? I kept waiting for Jo Astell to suddenly become more sexy and appealing and step up to the plate...

Bearbeitet: Feb. 6, 2011, 4:13pm

Well there must have been something about the lad because he sure seemed to attract that kind of love from the two strongest women in the book.

ETA: I'm going to hunt for that slur from the wife's father (her name has gone right out of my head).

Feb. 6, 2011, 6:16pm


When I was writing romance novels, the convention was to have the "more experienced" lady vie with the "innocent" heroine for the love of the rakish hero. And the damned fool always chose the innocent. I. personally, could never understand that so my heroines, although always innocent, considered their virginity a pain in the ass and were more than happy to become a quick study to the joys of sex. But the formula always demanded that the "experienced" woman had to be a self-centered bitch Thank goodness, times have changed.


It's the dialogue between Lord Sedgmire and Mrs. Beddows when he comes to take Midge back to the family estate. Page 456 Original Virago:

"You mentioned something about a lot of young officers. And that it was the talk of the place." ..... (Lord Sedgmire speaking)

"So I know her inheritance. Is this child Carnes?"
"He claimed it."
"Is it like him?"
" Not in any way. But that's nothing. He claimed Midge..."

It is not so much a slander, but an acceptance that his grandchild might not have been his son-in-law's.

Bearbeitet: Feb. 6, 2011, 11:08pm

Thanks, Elaine. p477 in the newer Virago and you are right, it wasn't a slur, it was Mrs. Beddoes telling Muriel's father the truth about the marriage, about Robert, and the bit about the soldiers. Midge looks just like Muriel, so there are no tell-tale signs. I think, like Mrs. Beddows, that we shall never know the truth about the daughter's parentage.

ETA: That said, with the blindness of Robert's blind love for Muriel and Muriel's behaviour being pretty manic even before she gave birth, I think we are meant to feel doubt about Midge's paternity and to feel even more pity for Robert.

Barbara, I think a drop dead handsome guy from a 500 year old family which had gobs of money (until the post-war slump and Muriel's problems), who can love deeply and with great passion would be a pretty big draw, his Conservative tendencies notwithstanding!

Feb. 6, 2011, 7:03pm

Now I am tremendously anxious to read this, especially if it compares to Middlemarch! I have just been re-reading George Eliot and am in love with her books all over again... But I can't find South Riding at any of the libraries in my area (although I did just put a hold on the Persephone edition of Holtby's The Crowded Street), and since I just spent a shocking amount of money at Amazon to feed my Cynthia Harrod-Eagles addiction, I think it will have to wait till the next time we make a trip to Powell's.

Feb. 12, 2011, 3:13pm

The TV adaptation has just been discussed in a few minutes at the end of BBC Radio 4's Saturday review (if you try to find it on Listen again, it's the last 9 minutes). The woman who had read the book thought they'd made a mess of the adaptation, the others who were all men seemed to have quite enjoyed it. One commented on a sort of almost burlesque scene - that would be the dance school from the novel presumably.

It starts on Sunday 20 February here in Britain.

I don't know when I'll get to watching it but I was thinking of buying the DVD of the much longer 1970s version (13 hours not 3) which is also available from online retailers.

Why does Andrew Davies think Holtby is dumbing down compared to (Anthony) Trollope though?

Feb. 12, 2011, 4:50pm

Good news! It is being advertized in the new Radio Times as well.

Feb. 12, 2011, 5:26pm

I've just seen the trailer for the first time, after Faulks on Fiction. Subtle it is not.

Feb. 12, 2011, 5:43pm

here is a link to the trailer

Feb. 12, 2011, 8:11pm

Oh. My. Not exactly my imagination come to life.

Feb. 12, 2011, 11:32pm

Well, it's just an ad so I'll keep my hopes up for it. I think without the pounding music and 1 second sound bytes, there's enormous potential with those excellent actors.

Bearbeitet: Feb. 13, 2011, 3:28am

Two behind-the-scenes clips on an Anna Maxwell Martin fan site blog (the second, costumes clip doesn't seem to be working properly)...

Feb. 13, 2011, 6:14am

>54 tiffin:: keeping my hopes up as well. The cast is really amazing.

Feb. 13, 2011, 9:15am

And remember that the ad is designed to drag in more reluctant viewers.

Feb. 17, 2011, 10:08am

One of the actors, David Morrissey, was on the radio yesterday. He made the observation that in this case the council was deciding to spend their way out of problems (and this would have been a Tory dominated rural council, only one Labour councillor is elected).

Feb. 21, 2011, 10:30pm

My mum had some worrying news to tell me tonight (her health) but she watched South Riding last night and it was lovely to be able to talk about it. She's been reading Testament of Experience but has never read South Riding so I can justify keeping my two copies by hopefully getting one to her.

I watched the first episode on "catch-up" tonight - most BBC and Channel 4 programmes and some others are possible to watch for about a week after they were broadcast, sometimes all episodes until a week after the last one, which is handy for me as I'm upstairs with our 2 year old when most things I want to watch are on.

I'll have to look up the age of the actors playing Sarah Burton, but she doesn't look anything like 40 which is annoying - and the older woman alderwoman doesn't look to be in her early 70s. It would have been nice to cast age appropriate actors in female roles in this, wouldn't it?

The oddly sexualised dancing was commented on in yet another radio program I heard, but I thought, that's in the book. I'll have to try and watch it again, I think!

Feb. 22, 2011, 4:18am

I'm sorry to hear that your mum's health is still a worry, Luci.

I watched South Riding yesterday evening. I wasn't sure what to expect from it as (like many of us) I have only recently read the book and that can make me overly picky. I did enjoy it however. I thought the casting was good though I do agree with your point, Luci, about the youthfulness of the cast. They were generally a younger and more glamorous version of the images I had of them! Lydia, maybe because she's intended to be young, looked exactly as I imagined her. I was relieved that the accent and dialects sounded fairly authentic.

I re-read the dancing scene in the book . It does take place as shown but Sarah seems more uncomfortable with it than she appears to be in the dramatisation.

The best thing of all about the dramatisation for me is that Mr Dragon loved it too and decided we really needed a first edition of South Riding! We have ordered a rather special looking one from Maggs Bros Rare Books which appears to come with an autographed letter. Very exciting!

Feb. 22, 2011, 6:23am

It's a long, long, long, long time since I read the book so my memories are hazy enough to accept the televisation as something fresh and new. I do agree about the age of most of the cast, though, in particular Sarah whose fiance was supposed to have died in WWI, making her approaching 40 by the time of the 'action. Admittedly, that's only a few years older than the actress herself but anyone who looks at old photographs will know how much older people looked in those days. Dramatic license though, eh? I can live with it.

Mrz. 7, 2011, 11:53am

So ... the last episode is done and dusted ... any comments?

Mrz. 7, 2011, 12:25pm

60 - What an exciting purchase! I hope there will be pictures when it arrives?

I've only seen the first episode so far and I'm finding it enjoyable. The changes that have been made for the purpose of condensing the book into three hours of television have all seemed very logical so far and it's well cast, even if they do err on the young side. I think Judi Dench would have made a fantastic Emma Beddows though, if I were casting it and had an unlimited budget.

Mrz. 7, 2011, 12:56pm

I found it disappointing - it was a bit too much of an Andrew Davies cliche for me I'm afraid!

Mrz. 8, 2011, 3:05am

Personally - I found Sarah Burton disappointing. She appeared far too young and 'modern'. I see the book more education centred than one of unrequited love. Her portrayal of a Head mistress of the 1930s era was, for me, unconvincing.

The setting was portrayed realistically although I found some of the indoor scenes far too dark and this detracted at times. (yes, I did fiddle and attempt to adjust my colour balance etc!) The school uniforms were soooo like the brown tunic I used to wear ....
The culmination of the drama seemed to happen in a huge hurry - did he suddenly realise he only had a few minutes of screen time remaining?
Having said all that - I did watch it all despite being a little disappointed. One of those cases where the book may well be read by those whose interest is piqued.

Mrz. 8, 2011, 4:22am

63, 64>: I enjoyed the first episode but then was disillusioned with the second episode and still have the third to watch. I was disappointed that so much of the plot was condensed -much of what Holtby was saying was "rough shod" over whilst a lot of time was devoted to flashbacks about Miriam which weren't part of the book, as far as I can recall! I think you're right Verity- probably a bit too obvious an Andrew Davies production. Though having said all that I must admit to enjoying David Morrisey's dour Yorkshireman performance rather a lot- I'm so susceptible!

60, 63>: (The First Edition) It arrived and is absolutely lovely. It is in nice condition with a cream spine and green boards and came in a racing green box with a label that announced it was number 4 out of 175 copies. Included is a card signed by Winifred (looks like it was attached to flowers at some point) and also a delightful letter signed by Winifred Holtby to a May Kitston at Crooked Acres in Kirkstall, Leeds, saying how much she'd enjoyed having her to stay etc... Very special!

I should manage a photo soon- I am just getting my life back to a semblance of normality after a frantic month getting final course-work done. I handed my portfolio in on Friday so can breathe again. Looking forward particularly, to catching up with everyone's threads (including my own) on the 75 challenge forum!

Mrz. 8, 2011, 5:00am

Deeeeeee .... what a wonderful acquisition! How very special and then to have the card as well. I should imagine it is priceless to you ! Do you collect First Editions or was this an exceedingly special purchase?

Mrz. 8, 2011, 6:59am

Ooh, Dee, that sounds lovely!

I believe David Morrissey did quite a nice little interview on the radio (maybe Front Row) in which he particularly commented on the attitude to local government in South Riding.

Mrz. 12, 2011, 3:52am

67 & 68: This was an exceedingly special purchase! I don't collect first editions- as I buy so very many books I tend to buy the cheapest copy available. However Steve, my husband has a different approach. He doesn't buy many books and rarely reads fiction but is interested in antiquarian books (he is a professional bookbinder) and books connected with local history. He believes that when you buy a book you should buy the best one available and sees them as investments! He became interested in South Riding when we watched the dramatisation (mainly because it has a local setting) and suggested we should look for a first edition- I didn't argue!

I would be interested to hear David Morrissey's comments, Luci. I wonder if they're still available at Listen again...

I just remembered that the new Virago forum is discussing South Riding this month. Link below..

Mrz. 12, 2011, 5:31am

Dee! I'm only just now reading about your first edition and SIGNED LETTER!!! How thrilling!! I'd love to see what the letter says if you don't mind sharing it!

Mrz. 12, 2011, 8:45am

Thank you all for sharing in my excitement! I will see if I can scan the letter so that it is still readable.

Bearbeitet: Mrz. 12, 2011, 12:30pm

If anyone is interested in reading the letter the front is
here and the back is
here (Left click to zoom in!)

It is a very conventional sort of letter but obviously wonderful to have. Steve and I have been doing a bit of research into the Kitson family. (The envelope, which I haven't scanned, is addressed to May Kitson of Crooked Acres, Kirkstall, Leeds). It seems May Kitson was a relative of a Leeds Kitson who was involved in locomotive design.

I have discovered that there is a large Winifred Holtby collection at the local heritage centre which was donated by Vera Brittain. Lots of interesting sounding letters there plus the original manuscript of South Riding! That will be my next Holtby mission- don't think I'll be able to scan those though!

Mrz. 12, 2011, 3:05pm

Thanks for scanning the letter ... the heritage center sounds fantastic, Dee!

Apr. 29, 2011, 2:44pm

South Riding in 3 parts is coming to P.B.S. Masterpiece Theater beginning this Sunday.

I intend to tape it on my DVR as I watch so little T.V. I know I would forget to watch it.

Mai 1, 2011, 11:17pm

So I am quite late to the South Riding party but I saw the first installment tonight and now I must find a copy of the book. Judging from the thread I might enjoy the TV series more before reading it then I won't be angered by what has been left out.

Dee, what a lovely find.

Bearbeitet: Mai 2, 2011, 2:52am

I am very much looking forward to hearing views on the TV adaptation. Do hope you enjoy it.
As an additional aside related to various editions of the book I have a small anecdote. I was fortunate to receive the lovely new Virago edition from the publishers for which I was most grateful, even though I possessed the original VMC. When I was in France over Easter I was browsing the shelves of my parents Minty bookcases which we took out and imagine my joy when I found another, much earlier edition. A slim green hardback with my dear Father's signature on the inside cover. A very special find indeed!

Mai 2, 2011, 5:30am

>76 juliette07:: Oh how wonderful, Julie! I love it when books connect us with our family's past!

Mai 2, 2011, 7:13am

I enjoyed the adaptation very much although obviously there were minor points to moan about - not least that the actress playing Sarah seemed rather too young for the role. Luckily for me it is many years since I read the novel so I failed to notice parts that had been cut. I was inspired to buy the book again after watching and - as is usual with these things - could only get an edition that features scenes from the serial on its front cover; I hate these 'tie-ins' but I guess I'll forget all about that once I start reading.

Mai 2, 2011, 7:43am

>76 juliette07:: that is indeed wonderful !

I watched the first installment on TV last night and quite enjoyed it.

Mai 9, 2011, 5:06pm

Having now watched the second episode of South Riding on PBS, I find myself in complete agreement with comments in messages 63-66, especially this from Dee (Soupdragon):
I enjoyed the first episode but then was disillusioned with the second episode and still have the third to watch. I was disappointed that so much of the plot was condensed -much of what Holtby was saying was "rough shod" over whilst a lot of time was devoted to flashbacks about Miriam which weren't part of the book, as far as I can recall!

While I recognize there are so many subplots in the book, and understand why some may have been omitted, I also feel that without them some of the characters remain undeveloped. Take for example, Emma Beddows. She was a very strong character in the book and not significant enough in the series. There's no mention of Beddows' pioneering role as first alderwoman, or any of her personal history (marriage, money, etc.). It's a waste of Penelope Wilton's talents, imo.

Mai 9, 2011, 5:40pm

I think, in this instance, it is better to watch the series and then read the book. The series is stressing the romance and sex. No surprise there. Anyone coming to the book after the series will be pleasantly surprised.

I totally agree that Wilton is wasted. Also, I was a bit distracted by having two actors play Carne. Considered how much was cut, I don't know if it was necessary to show the rape scene.

I'm enjoying the series, but it isn't a keeper.

Mai 9, 2011, 8:43pm

>81 Liz1564:: I'm enjoying the series, but it isn't a keeper. Yep.

Mai 10, 2011, 1:24am

>80 lauralkeet:: I was disappointed with the second episode. I won't say too much about the third until you've watched it but I only just refrained from throwing things at the television by the final credits!

Mai 15, 2011, 10:11pm

The producers must have actually adapted the little known classic North Stumbling by Frederica Byholt. That is the only explanation for the final episode since it bears not the slightest resemblance to the novel under discussion.

Mai 15, 2011, 10:22pm

Okay, having read the novel and seen the entire miniseries, I am willing to weigh in: David Morrissey, Charlie Clark (Lydia Holly), and Penelope Wilton improve any scene, but Andrew Davies is a hack. The climactic scene of Miss Burton and Mrs. Beddows on the train, with Lydia standing by, is a travesty. The point that Holtby makes is that, having suffered herself, Miss Burton can now understand the struggles of her less talented students, and not simply devote her attention to gifted students like Lydia. Holtby's novel is about hard lessons learned, about stretching oneself outward into a newer, deeper, and more challenging life. Davies's version is about ending with swelling music and easy sentimental tears, but it entirely lacks the heart and mind of Holtby's brilliant novel.

P.S. Women, am I right that David Morrissey is much more attractive than boring Matthew McFadyen?

Mai 16, 2011, 1:34am

>85 rbhardy3rd:: Yes Rob, I absolutely agree. The final scene was the absolute nail in the coffin for me. As you say, Andrew Davies missed the point entirely and that is why I was almost throwing things at the television at the final credits!

David Morrissey did have a certain appeal although I think the dour Yorkshireman thing was just a little overdone!

>84 Liz1564:: :-)

Mai 16, 2011, 8:18am

>85 rbhardy3rd:: I'm with you, Rob. To answer your question, where looks are concerned I personally prefer McFadyen. I didn't think Morrissey did much with the Carne role either.

I've enjoyed Andrew Davies' other productions but this one did not live up to his past successes. The train scene missed the point but at least it gave Wilton something to do (I'd commented earlier that her talents were wasted in this adaptation). There were any number of underdeveloped and/or missing plot elements. The special effects in Carne's final scene were also ridiculous and for some reason reminded me of the parting of the Red Sea moment in The Ten Commandments. And that very final scene ... GIVE ME A BREAK.

Mai 16, 2011, 8:32am

My pet hate was the scene between Joe and Sarah where he declares his feelings. Why state the obvious when it had been conveyed beneath the surface up to that point? Grrrr ...

OTOH, Huggins was just as I'd imagined him to be, so oily and repulsive, yet too ineffectual to be anything more than pathetic by the end. (That's pathetic in the scornful sense used as a playground insult, not the dictionary definition.)

>85 rbhardy3rd:: I'm not a huge fan of McFadyen either. Hated him as Darcy.

Mai 16, 2011, 11:25am

>88 Sakerfalcon:: well, he's no Colin Firth ... :)
I liked him in Little Dorrit.

I agree with you about the scene with Joe !

Mai 16, 2011, 12:13pm

I watched this series with my husband, and have begged him now to read the book, as the series just didn't do the book justice. He says he's going to and that he's looking forward to it, but that I'm not to spoil it for him by telling him what they changed! So I'm letting off a little steam here in good company!

I was glad to see some things dramatized by some excellent actors. I really didn't like the liberties taken with Muriel coming to the mental home at the end, and how Astell's focus on social issues became simplified into being a torch for Sarah -- I felt that really trivialized the social theme so strong in the novel and just made romance out of it all. And that all got reduced to running in the tide in a bathing suit at the end? >85 rbhardy3rd: Like you said!

I suppose it's because such a large work had to be so condensed into three short episodes. I do think some small details could have been left in though, like the busy, family-filled background of the Beddows household -- could have seen that without dialogue easily. Also, the way in which Carne dies in the novel had been well set up and was ignored here -- I just didn't see the reason for that, except to muddle things. The scene with Midge and Lord Sedgmire was changed for reasons I didn't understand at all either -- the dialogue in the novel was simple and straightforward and would have been more effective and in keeping with character.

Anyway, I guess overall I'm glad it was done at all, and I hope maybe it will inspire some new readers of a real masterpiece, the novel.

Mai 16, 2011, 9:46pm

It's brought a lot of new readers to the novel including my mum.

Mai 17, 2011, 7:54am

>91 elkiedee:: yes, that's a good thing!

Mai 17, 2011, 10:48pm

I'm chiming in really late, but glad to read this wonderful conversation and say I noticed that the last several BBC/WGBH "Masterpiece" series have been rushed through, highly commercialized, quite different from the way those kinds of programs used to be produced - thinking about "Brideshead Revisited" from the early 80's, "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy", "Flame Trees of Thika," "UXB", and tons and tons more. I know they're all very different stories and required vastly different production approaches, but I do feel that there's been a real change in the amount of effort and commitment to these series. But, I'm also, like others, grateful to learn about this author who is news for me - tho I plodded through Vera Brittain years ago. And I'm really interested to learn about the reference to Dachau that early. Thanks for the conversation!

Mai 18, 2011, 4:23pm

I know that Peter Firth (Snaith) is from Bradford, so he comes by his Yorkshire accent honestly, but in the scene when Huggins comes to his house I imagined him saying, "Make yourself comfortable, Gromit, and have a lovely piece of Wensleydale."

Mai 18, 2011, 6:00pm

Oh Rob - we raised our son on Wallace and Gromit! Andrew Davies is said to make a habit of sexing up the classics. I did not watch the tv series, having disliked the book. Yes, ladies, I am willing to admit to not liking the book. Specifically I could not reconcile myself to her choice of men. Right from the beginning I thought she should be with Joe and grew increasingly impatient and out of sorts when she went off in the other direction.

Bearbeitet: Mai 19, 2011, 6:29am

>95 romain:: Barbara-I did like the book (a lot) but I'm with you on the frustration of watching right thinking, socialist Sarah fall for conservative, land-owner Carne rather than the much more suitable Joe. It didn't spoil the book for me because it seemed all too plausible. It reminded me of a couple of my friends who invariably pick bad boys over the nice men they actually have something in common with (even now we are all in our forties and the bad boys have become dubious, possible con-men)!

Edited to say for "nice" actually read intelligent, articulate and sensitive.

Also I think Holtby is exploring the conflict between sympathising with rural landowners and having socialist beliefs which she first looked at in Anderby Wold.

Mai 21, 2011, 9:58am

I see that Netflix will have the DVDs available soon, so I've added them to my queue. I will read the book first, though.

Mai 25, 2011, 6:31am

I'm going to a discussion of South Riding at Virago next week, with someone involved in the new edition there - I'll check the details but if anyone has any intelligent questions to ask which I can contribute to the discussion, I'll say they're from friends who can't be there and will try to make a note of any responses.

Mai 25, 2011, 11:13am

Luci, your question comes at a wonderful time. I've just been listening to a friend here ruminate on the book - she thinks it's a work of genius. She loves the way that WH was able to take archetypes and turn them into living, breathing people. I think other people here have said that in maybe different terms in this very discussion. Anyway, her question (which I was going to open up to this group) is whether novels from the 30's exist in which a woman is able not just to balance and be successful in a relationship and in a career but to thrive in both. My friend had read I'm Not Complaining earlier and was citing it as example #2 of a woman who was forced to choose. She wonders whether it is a failure of imagination on the part of the women writing in that time.
What say you? Do you have some book in mind that contradicts this? Maybe Harriet Vane, but we don't really see her doing it except in the short story "Talboys."

Mai 25, 2011, 3:05pm

Wow, I am not sorry now that I missed the second episode. I do want to read the book still and I wouldn't mind having that red suit from the film. . .

Mai 25, 2011, 7:00pm

Peg - I was born in the 50s and I can tell you that when women got married, right up to the late 60s in Australia/NZ they were forced to resign from many jobs to make way for men. Equal wages for women only became the law in 1975 in England. Until then I earned less than all my male counterparts while doing the same job. I cannot imagine how bad it was for women in the 1930s especially given the shortage of men because of the First World War. And let's not get started on men's inability to tolerate successful women back then. No surprises really that it had to be one or the other. Nevertheless I will look at my books tonight and see if I can come up with any books where the heroine got both.

My question to the discussion group would have to still be Why not Joe with whom she could have had both?

Mai 26, 2011, 4:42am

While I agree that Joe and Sarah would have made a great pair in terms of their shared ideals etc, Sarah clearly did not have romantic feelings for him. (Silly girl!) I appreciate that Holtby did not have Sarah marry him anyway just so she could have a man and fulfil the expected role of a woman at that time.

Also, I'm pretty sure that she would have had to give up her career had she chosen to have children, even if she had continued it after marriage. I don't know what the law said, but I know that even when my mum was teaching in the late 60s/early 70s, it was made almost impossible to continue teaching after having a child. Of her 12 weeks maternity leave, 8 HAD to be taken before the birth. Naturally, she chose to give up work rather than only have a month with her new baby. ( I think those numbers are right; I do remember that it was a hugely disproportionate amount of leave that had to be taken before the birth compared to after.)

Mai 26, 2011, 8:57am

Exactly right about marriage and maternity leave, at least in Chicago. When I started teaching high school in Chicago in the 60's, I got $1000 a year less because I "'didn't have a family to support." It made no sense because singe male teachers "didn't have a family to support" either. Only becoming a teacher's union city did that rule change around 1968. It took another ten years before the rule that women had to quit at 5.5 months when pregnant or "when they started to show", whichever came first. The principal decided. Maternity leave ended four weeks after birth and if there wasn't someone, like granny, to take care of the baby, most women resigned. Of course, maternity leave was unpaid. An unmarried pregnant teacher was fired.

Since grammar school teachers were almost exclusively women, they seemed to be primarily single or, if married, older with no young children. They also were paid less than secondary teachers.

Also, my mother-in-law told me that the male nurses got paid more than female nurses in the hospital where she worked No one realized this until a newly hired male nurse fresh out of training won the weekly "paycheck poker" pot. When he showed his paycheck to the woman holding the cash, she was shocked to find out his salary was 1/3 more than hers. The response of the hospital? There will be no change. If you are unhappy, quit.

Prior to the changes, any novel, at least set in Chicago, would be"pure" fiction if the heroine had a family and a successful career .The 1924 Pulizer novel "So Big" by Ferber, set in Chicago and a suburb had a heroine who became a successful business woman only after her husband dies and she could bring modern changes to her truck farm.

Even Miss Buncle stops writing her third novel when she finds out she is having a baby, although her editor husband says that it is the finest writing she has produced.

Mai 27, 2011, 1:49pm

#103 I just finished reading Miss Buncle Married and was interested to read in the afterword that although Miss Buncle stops writing when she has her baby, D. E. Stevenson herself only had her first book published when she was already a mother of three children. She did have household help to look after the children and do all the housework so she could write though.

Jun. 7, 2011, 11:33am

Last week I went to a talk by Andrew Davies about South Riding at the Hay Festival. He said several things I disagreed with vehemently - such as: audiences wouldn't be interested in the political angle, which is why so much was cut out. I was shaking my head so vigorously I think I may have done permanent damage!

But he did also talk about the fact that initially the series was meant to be a four-parter. After he had written it, the BBC decided it would work better in three parts. So he had to cut out a lot to make it fit. And, to go along with what a lot of you have said, he claims he was very disappointed in the ending.

Aug. 18, 2011, 12:47am

I just finished reading A Writer's Diary by Virginia Woolf, and had to share her characteristically slightly pompous comment: "reading South new, gives me a fillip after all the evenings I grind at Burke and Mill. A good thing to read one's contemporaries, even rapid twinkling slice-of-life novels like poor W.H.'s."

Aug. 18, 2011, 1:57am

How funny!

Aug. 18, 2011, 9:01am

Oh jeez!

Aug. 18, 2011, 4:59pm

I loved Virginia Woolf (especially Mrs. Dalloway and The Waves) when I was in my early 20s, but now I prefer Winifred Holtby. A sign of my aging and less agile brain?

Aug. 18, 2011, 7:48pm

I got into this thread because I read South Riding years ago, so many I've forgotten much of the plot. I did enjoy it greatly though, much like the posters here. And then in one of Woolf's Diaries (the expanded ones) she says something about South Riding sort of like the above, but harsher, along the lines of its being cliched and unoriginal. I felt so guilty for enjoying it! I was sort of like, "but...but..." Then I had to reconcile how I could like both...
I realize now that Woolf was often very jealous of other living writers. I think also she met Holtby, who had written about her, a few times and felt a class and generation difference which she couldn't get over.
This has made me want to go back and re-read South Riding. Maybe I have enough independence of mind now to like both. Glad I didn't see the series though.

Bearbeitet: Aug. 19, 2011, 3:19am

Funnily enough, I've just read another comment re. Winifred Holtby by Virginia Woolf. This one seems more favourable concerning Holtby but not about Vera Brittain's writing!

In Uncommon Arrangements, Kate Roiphe writes that:

"Many of Winifred's friends objected to the tragic, strained portrait of Winifred that emerged from the pages, (of Vera's memorial, Testament of Friendship), to the resolute erasure of her quirkiness, her sense of humor, her vitality"

Virginia Woolf wrote, "Winifred deserves better."