Since I'm not very far into Winifred Holtby's South Riding, I don't have much to share along with my teaser today, but so far I'm enjoying the story. I had wanted to read it before it aired on Masterpiece Theatre, but it's always wise to start reading a 500+ page book a little earlier than a week before you plan on watching the movie. Instead, I didn't watch the first (of three) episodes this past Sunday and will borrow or buy (is it worth buying?) it later.
Aside from the length of the book I was a little uncertain about reading it as there are six (yes six!) full pages of characters. That's quite a cast, but so far I've not been too confused by anything. I think a fair few of you might already have either read the book or seen the BBC production, but in case you are unfamiliar with the story it is about a woman who returns to Yorkshire where she grew up to become headmistress of a local school. It's set during the depression in the years after the First World War. I expect this to be a "slice of life" sort of story about the people of the town and the social and political conditions. Hopefully it won't take me too long to read it considering how poky I can be with long books.
Let me introduce you to Sarah Burton, the heroine of the story. She's nearing forty and not what you'd expect from a headmistress.
"Miss Sarah Burton, M.A., B. Litt., entered the unwelcoming ugly room."
"She was much too small. Though her close-fitting hat was blamelessly discreet, her hair was red--not mildly ginger, but vivid, springing, wiry glowing, almost crimson, read. Astonishing hair. Nothing could have been more sober and businesslike than her dark brown clothes; but from her sensible walking shoes rose ankles which were superfluously pretty. Head mistresses, ran the unformed thought in the mind of more than one governor, should not possess angles as slender as a gazelle's and flexible insteps."
I like her already! Apparently Sarah Waters must have too as she's quoted on the dustjacket: "...a novel that works on all sorts of levels, capturing the life or a whole community even as it offers us the passions, frustrations and tragedies of individual lives...I can't say enough good things about this book". As I've just finished a library book that required my attention for the last few days, I'm looking forward to reading this now in earnest. I do hope it lives up to expectations. This will be my first real taste of Holtby's writing. I think I am in just the right mood for it. And I must add I love the cover illustration, which is a Yorkshire Dales British Railways poster from 1953.