Winifred Holtby

South Riding
  • South Riding

  • The community of South Riding, like the rest of the country, lives in the long shadow of war. Blighted by recession and devastated by the loss, they must also come to terms with significant social change.Forward-thinking and ambitious, Sarah Burton is the embodiment of such change. After the death of her fiancé, she returns home to Yorkshire focused on her career as headmistress of the local school. But not everyone can embrace the new social order. Robert Carne, a force of conservatism, stands firmly against Sarah. A tormented man, he carries a heavy burden that locks him in the past.

    As the villagers of South Riding adjust to Sarah's arrival and face the changing world, emotions run high, prejudices are challenged and community spirit is tested.

    Anna Maxwell Martin (Bleak House) and David Morrissey lead an outstanding cast in this rich and panoramic portrait of community in turmoil. Winifred Holtby's little-known and hard-to-find literary gem is a magnificent masterpiece, to be joyfully rediscovered by a whole new generation of readers.

Winifred Holtby was born in 1898, the daughter of David Holtby, a prosperous Yorkshire farmer, and Alice Holtby, the first alderwoman in Yorkshire. Educated at home by a governess and then at a boarding school, Holtby passed the entrance exam for Somerville College but left in early 1918 to join the Women's Auxiliary Army Corps . After the war she returned to Somerville College where she met Vera Brittain and the two became life-long friends. They graduated together in 1921 and moved to London where they hoped to establish themselves as writers. But where Vera's first two novels, The Dark Tide (1923) and Not Without Honour (1925) met with little success, Winifred had much more of an impact with Anderby Wold (1923), The Crowded Street (1924) and The Land of Green Ginger (1927). Holtby was diagnosed with Bright's Disease (sclerosis of the kidneys) in 1932, and was told she would only have two or three years to live. Determined to get as much work done as possible before the disease took its inevitable toll she put all her energy into what became her most important book, South Riding. Winifred Holtby died on 29th September 1935. South Riding was published the following year and was highly praised by the critics.

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