When I read Vera Brittain’s autobiographical book about the impact of World War One on her generation, I met another literary figure I liked right away… Winifred Holtby. She became Vera’s closest friend and another literary woman of her age. Naturally, I had to read some of her writing.
My friendly local librarians managed to find me a copy through an interlibrary loan. Love librarians. They rock my world.
South Riding was her last and best novel, written before her death due to kidney disease, and published posthumouslay by her great friend, Vera Brittain.
Winifred Holtby’s mother was the first alderwoman on their local county council in Yorkshire, and this seems to have resulted in Winifred’s large awareness of and familiarity with the kinds of concerns addressed by such organizations of local government. Not only was she interested in these public works, she was inspired by them and their impact on ‘human happiness’.
It’s a clever structure for a novel, and one I’ve not encountered before. The author lays out her framework in the table of contents:
I am interested in the story historically, as this was an era of major social changes; between the wars in England. It’s a period that never fails to fascinate me in either books or films. But I’m really enjoying her characters, and I like the style of her writing. She clearly means exactly what she writes, no more and no less. It’s vivid, and a fascinating story so far.
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