Book Review

South Riding

Winifred Holtby


December’s book club choice was South Riding by Winifred Holtby.  This is a classic novel set in a village in Yorkshire, the author’s home county. Holtby, a close friend of Vera Brittain was the subject of Brittain’s 1940 biography, ‘Testament of Friendship’.


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Reviewed by Nadine.

Winifred Holtby was a journalist and writer, a pacifist, anti-racist campaigner, critic of fascism and a renowned feminist.  Her life was cut tragically short by kidney disease, and she died in 1935, one month after completing South Riding, which she called her ‘Farm and School’ novel. South Riding is much more than that though.

The lively discussion at book group concluded that South Riding is a funny, poignant and very well observed study of a community on the East Yorkshire coast, during the turbulent inter war years. The conflicting values of tradition and change are an ongoing theme throughout the book. Holtby clearly knows this area and its inhabitants exceptionally well and we were all drawn into the lives of the characters in the novel. We did feel the book was over long and was in need of some editing, but unfortunately Holtby’s early demise made this impossible. We concluded however that this book, published in 1936, is a twentieth century classic that still has relevance today.

We scored it an average of 7.6