2

Virago Week: ‘Anderby Wold’ by Winifred Holtby *****

First published in March 2012.

Despite being relatively popular in her day, Winifred Holtby shot to the limelight in the United Kingdom last year.  This is due in part to Virago’s beautiful reprinted editions of several of her novels, and also because of the delightful BBC adaptation of her most famous book, South Riding.  The Yorkshire-born author always writes with such astonishing clarity which allows the thoughts and feelings of her characters to rise to prominence as her stories progress.  She writes about those situations which she has experience of, and the characters which feature in her novels seem all the more real because of it. 

Anderby Wold takes place in the small village of Anderby in the East Riding of Yorkshire.  The novel opens with the formidable character of Sarah Bannister who seems intent upon bossing her husband Tom around.  Sarah has ‘too much respect for her own judgment to acknowledge an error’ in her character.  Details like this which feature heavily throughout Holtby’s narrative set her writing apart from other novels.  She is not too blatant or obvious with the details which she mentions, and her writing certainly benefits as a result.

The inhabitants of Anderby Wold, John and Mary Robson, are soon introduced.  They are cousins who are currently trapped in a loveless marriage with one another.  Sarah, John’s sister, and Tom are travelling to their farm for a celebratory ‘tea party’.  The plot revolves around the Robson family, all of whom are used to rural life and are intent upon preserving the familial intermarrying which has occurred for generations.  Mary is discontent with her lot in life until she chances upon the young, rebellious author David Rossiter, sixteen years her junior.  The relationship between Mary and David is crafted wonderfully.  They mock each other and bring a real sense of joviality and comradeship to the novel.  A wonderful example of this is when David tells Mary: ‘as it is, every time you are nice to me, I have to recite little pieces of Marx to myself to convince me what an abomination you really are’.

The novel sparkles from the outset.  The reader is in the company of a wonderful author who crafts such believable stories and peoples them with rich and wonderful characters.  Despite using the third person perspective, Holtby is able to capture the most in-depth thoughts and intricacies of feelings of each of her characters.  Her descriptions are sublime.  She builds up marvellous pasts for her characters and uses these to build friction and tension between them.  The characters in Anderby Wold are all diverse and range from self-important Sarah and clumsy maid Violet to quiet John and keen-to-please Mary.  Mary is intent upon being her own person in the village and not becoming like the women around her who fill their lives with empty chatter about ‘maids, their sisters… [and] the price of wool for socks’.  Sarah is obstinate and disapproving and is unable to see the positive side in any given situation, but she is a vivid character from the outset.  Even without Holtby’s character descriptions, one can imagine each of the people she has created as realistically as if they had just passed them by in the street.

The dialects used throughout are written well.  They are not over-exaggerated and do not detract from what is actually being said.  The conversations between characters are often amusing and, by the same token, incredibly heartfelt.  Holtby’s choice of vocabulary and the order in which she puts them are often surprising.  Among the best examples of this are a character who ‘bowed severely’ and ‘Mrs Toby’s four unattractive little daughters possessed the sole talent of acquiring infectious diseases’.

As in South Riding, many characters feature in the novel, some of them briefly and some throughout.  Similarly, the sense of community is incredibly strong, and clashes exist between the people and the County Council as well as those of differing classes and social standings.  Like South Riding’s Sarah Burton, Anderby Wold’s main protagonist Mary is a teacher.  Both novels are stylistically and thematically similar.

Many themes gain prominence throughout Anderby Wold.  These include ageing, family, presuppositions, the building of relationships, life and death, community, the notion of outsiders, altering perceptions, class and social change.  Social nuances, many of them rather silly, are included throughout to build up a realistic feel of the period in which the novel is set.  Anderby Wold is a many-layered book which intrigues and informs in equal measure.

Anderby Wold was Holtby’s first novel and was published in 1923.  There is nothing old-fashioned about it, however.  The issues which she addresses are still of interest to the majority and the characters which she has fashioned so lovingly are fresh and continually intriguing.  The novel is a must read.

Purchase from The Book Depository

2

One From the Archive: ‘Anderby Wold’ by Winifred Holtby

First published in March 2012.

Despite being relatively popular in her day, Winifred Holtby shot to the limelight in the United Kingdom last year.  This is due in part to Virago’s beautiful reprinted editions of several of her novels, and also because of the delightful BBC adaptation of her most famous book, South Riding.  The Yorkshire-born author always writes with such astonishing clarity which allows the thoughts and feelings of her characters to rise to prominence as her stories progress.  She writes about those situations which she has experience of, and the characters which feature in her novels seem all the more real because of it. 

Anderby Wold takes place in the small village of Anderby in the East Riding of Yorkshire.  The novel opens with the formidable character of Sarah Bannister who seems intent upon bossing her husband Tom around.  Sarah has ‘too much respect for her own judgment to acknowledge an error’ in her character.  Details like this which feature heavily throughout Holtby’s narrative set her writing apart from other novels.  She is not too blatant or obvious with the details which she mentions, and her writing certainly benefits as a result.

The inhabitants of Anderby Wold, John and Mary Robson, are soon introduced.  They are cousins who are currently trapped in a loveless marriage with one another.  Sarah, John’s sister, and Tom are travelling to their farm for a celebratory ‘tea party’.  The plot revolves around the Robson family, all of whom are used to rural life and are intent upon preserving the familial intermarrying which has occurred for generations.  Mary is discontent with her lot in life until she chances upon the young, rebellious author David Rossiter, sixteen years her junior.  The relationship between Mary and David is crafted wonderfully.  They mock each other and bring a real sense of joviality and comradeship to the novel.  A wonderful example of this is when David tells Mary: ‘as it is, every time you are nice to me, I have to recite little pieces of Marx to myself to convince me what an abomination you really are’.

The novel sparkles from the outset.  The reader is in the company of a wonderful author who crafts such believable stories and peoples them with rich and wonderful characters.  Despite using the third person perspective, Holtby is able to capture the most in-depth thoughts and intricacies of feelings of each of her characters.  Her descriptions are sublime.  She builds up marvellous pasts for her characters and uses these to build friction and tension between them.  The characters in Anderby Wold are all diverse and range from self-important Sarah and clumsy maid Violet to quiet John and keen-to-please Mary.  Mary is intent upon being her own person in the village and not becoming like the women around her who fill their lives with empty chatter about ‘maids, their sisters… [and] the price of wool for socks’.  Sarah is obstinate and disapproving and is unable to see the positive side in any given situation, but she is a vivid character from the outset.  Even without Holtby’s character descriptions, one can imagine each of the people she has created as realistically as if they had just passed them by in the street.

The dialects used throughout are written well.  They are not over-exaggerated and do not detract from what is actually being said.  The conversations between characters are often amusing and, by the same token, incredibly heartfelt.  Holtby’s choice of vocabulary and the order in which she puts them are often surprising.  Among the best examples of this are a character who ‘bowed severely’ and ‘Mrs Toby’s four unattractive little daughters possessed the sole talent of acquiring infectious diseases’.

As in South Riding, many characters feature in the novel, some of them briefly and some throughout.  Similarly, the sense of community is incredibly strong, and clashes exist between the people and the County Council as well as those of differing classes and social standings.  Like South Riding’s Sarah Burton, Anderby Wold’s main protagonist Mary is a teacher.  Both novels are stylistically and thematically similar.

Many themes gain prominence throughout Anderby Wold.  These include ageing, family, presuppositions, the building of relationships, life and death, community, the notion of outsiders, altering perceptions, class and social change.  Social nuances, many of them rather silly, are included throughout to build up a realistic feel of the period in which the novel is set.  Anderby Wold is a many-layered book which intrigues and informs in equal measure.

Anderby Wold was Holtby’s first novel and was published in 1923.  There is nothing old-fashioned about it, however.  The issues which she addresses are still of interest to the majority and the characters which she has fashioned so lovingly are fresh and continually intriguing.  The novel is a must read.

Purchase from The Book Depository

0

One From the Archive: ‘Testament of Friendship: The Story of Winifred Holtby’ by Vera Brittain ****

First published in March 2012.

Testament of Friendship: The Story of Winifred Holtby was written in 1939 and first published in 1940. In this recently Virago reprint, Vera Brittain ‘tells the story of the woman who helped her survive the aftermath of that war’. Brittain is perhaps best known for her first volume of autobiography, Testament of Youth, which detailed her experiences as a Voluntary Aid Detachment nurse during the First World War.

Winifred Holtby, a prolific journalist in her day, is the author of several novels including South Riding, which was serialised by the BBC in 2011. It is made clear from Brittain’s account of her that Holtby was a marvellous woman who was incredibly benevolent and compassionate. She had such a passion for writing, apparent from an early age: ‘long before she could read easily Winifred had begun to write, and before she could write she told stories’.

Testament of Friendship spans the period from 1919, when Brittain and Holtby first met in Oxford as history undergraduates, up until Holtby’s untimely death in 1935. It is told systematically in chronological order, from her childhood in the Wolds and the year of nursing she undertook, to her time at Oxford where she spent her time ‘tearing about the streets on a very rusty cycle’. Her interest of and involvement in politics has been detailed, along with the championing of several causes close to her heart.

Mark Bostridge’s introduction cites Vera Brittain’s belief that: ‘Although we didn’t exactly grow up together… we grew mature together, and that is the next best thing’. He goes on to describe how ‘as writers they were the most decisive influences on each other’s work’. Bostridge believes that ‘Brittain’s perception of Holtby is at times too clouded by her own grief, and by guilt at having exploited her best friend’s generosity, even unwittingly, during her final illness’. This seems rather a clouded view, as in no sense does Brittain’s account read in this way. Contrary to Bostridge’s opinion, she seems the perfect writer for a biography of this sort. She knew Holtby intimately for many years, living together in London and publishing their debut novels almost simultaneously, and consequently saw Holtby as her ‘second self’. Such first-hand knowledge of her subject allows Testament of Friendship to read like the very best of biographies. Facts about Holtby’s life have been reinforced with wonderful descriptions and her importance in the lives of everyone she met is made paramount throughout.

Parallels of Holtby’s own experiences have been drawn to the characters which people her novels, along with the incidents which drove her to write. Testament of Friendship is rather sad at times. Whilst Holtby was encouraged to learn and study at renowned institutions, her family and those living in her village in the East Riding of Yorkshire did not understand her fame. As a collective they were ‘equally unimpressed by her literary renown’ and Brittain believes that a ‘proficiency at bridge or folk-dancing would have seemed to them of similar significance’.

Poems of Holtby’s have been included throughout, adding a lovely touch to the biography. Brittain has also made use of adorable childhood anecdotes, including childhood friendships, favourite pastimes and the relationship which Holtby had with her elder sister Grace. A wealth of memories has been dipped into to provide a rich history of Holtby’s life, from its beginning to its sad end.

Brittain’s prose is poetic and informative in equal measure. The rich writing allows the account to be read almost like a novel at times. Whilst Brittain signposts events important to her, she always uses them in the context of Holtby’s life too. Never does she lose sight of her friend. Testament of Friendship is a must-read, providing a rich and fascinating portrait of an admirable woman.

Purchase from The Book Depository

6

One From the Archive: ‘Anderby Wold’ by Winifred Holtby ****

First published in March 2012.

Despite being relatively popular in her day, Winifred Holtby shot to the limelight in the United Kingdom last year.  This is due in part to Virago’s beautiful reprinted editions of several of her novels, and also because of the delightful BBC adaptation of her most famous book, South Riding.  The Yorkshire-born author always writes with such astonishing clarity which allows the thoughts and feelings of her characters to rise to prominence as her stories progress.  She writes about those situations which she has experience of, and the characters which feature in her novels seem all the more real because of it. 

Anderby Wold takes place in the small village of Anderby in the East Riding of Yorkshire.  The novel opens with the formidable character of Sarah Bannister who seems intent upon bossing her husband Tom around.  Sarah has ‘too much respect for her own judgment to acknowledge an error’ in her character.  Details like this which feature heavily throughout Holtby’s narrative set her writing apart from other novels.  She is not too blatant or obvious with the details which she mentions, and her writing certainly benefits as a result.

The inhabitants of Anderby Wold, John and Mary Robson, are soon introduced.  They are cousins who are currently trapped in a loveless marriage with one another.  Sarah, John’s sister, and Tom are travelling to their farm for a celebratory ‘tea party’.  The plot revolves around the Robson family, all of whom are used to rural life and are intent upon preserving the familial intermarrying which has occurred for generations.  Mary is discontent with her lot in life until she chances upon the young, rebellious author David Rossiter, sixteen years her junior.  The relationship between Mary and David is crafted wonderfully.  They mock each other and bring a real sense of joviality and comradeship to the novel.  A wonderful example of this is when David tells Mary: ‘as it is, every time you are nice to me, I have to recite little pieces of Marx to myself to convince me what an abomination you really are’.

The novel sparkles from the outset.  The reader is in the company of a wonderful author who crafts such believable stories and peoples them with rich and wonderful characters.  Despite using the third person perspective, Holtby is able to capture the most in-depth thoughts and intricacies of feelings of each of her characters.  Her descriptions are sublime.  She builds up marvellous pasts for her characters and uses these to build friction and tension between them.  The characters in Anderby Wold are all diverse and range from self-important Sarah and clumsy maid Violet to quiet John and keen-to-please Mary.  Mary is intent upon being her own person in the village and not becoming like the women around her who fill their lives with empty chatter about ‘maids, their sisters… [and] the price of wool for socks’.  Sarah is obstinate and disapproving and is unable to see the positive side in any given situation, but she is a vivid character from the outset.  Even without Holtby’s character descriptions, one can imagine each of the people she has created as realistically as if they had just passed them by in the street.

The dialects used throughout are written well.  They are not over-exaggerated and do not detract from what is actually being said.  The conversations between characters are often amusing and, by the same token, incredibly heartfelt.  Holtby’s choice of vocabulary and the order in which she puts them are often surprising.  Among the best examples of this are a character who ‘bowed severely’ and ‘Mrs Toby’s four unattractive little daughters possessed the sole talent of acquiring infectious diseases’.

As in South Riding, many characters feature in the novel, some of them briefly and some throughout.  Similarly, the sense of community is incredibly strong, and clashes exist between the people and the County Council as well as those of differing classes and social standings.  Like South Riding’s Sarah Burton, Anderby Wold’s main protagonist Mary is a teacher.  Both novels are stylistically and thematically similar.

Many themes gain prominence throughout Anderby Wold.  These include ageing, family, presuppositions, the building of relationships, life and death, community, the notion of outsiders, altering perceptions, class and social change.  Social nuances, many of them rather silly, are included throughout to build up a realistic feel of the period in which the novel is set.  Anderby Wold is a many-layered book which intrigues and informs in equal measure.

Anderby Wold was Holtby’s first novel and was published in 1923.  There is nothing old-fashioned about it, however.  The issues which she addresses are still of interest to the majority and the characters which she has fashioned so lovingly are fresh and continually intriguing.  The novel is a must read.

Purchase from The Book Depository

0

One From the Archive: ‘Testament Of Friendship: The Story of Winifred Holtby’ by Vera Brittain ****

First published in June 2012

Testament of Friendship: The Story of Winifred Holtby was written in 1939 and first published in 1940. In this recently Virago reprint, Vera Brittain ‘tells the story of the woman who helped her survive the aftermath of that war’. Brittain is perhaps best known for her first volume of autobiography, Testament of Youth, which detailed her experiences as a Voluntary Aid Detachment nurse during the First World War.

Winifred Holtby, a prolific journalist in her day, is the author of several novels including South Riding, which was serialised by the BBC in 2011. It is made clear from Brittain’s account of her that Holtby was a marvellous woman who was incredibly benevolent and compassionate. She had such a passion for writing, apparent from an early age: ‘long before she could read easily Winifred had begun to write, and before she could write she told stories’.

‘Testament of Friendship’ by Vera Brittain (Virago)

Testament of Friendship spans the period from 1919, when Brittain and Holtby first met in Oxford as history undergraduates, up until Holtby’s untimely death in 1935. It is told systematically in chronological order, from her childhood in the Wolds and the year of nursing she undertook, to her time at Oxford where she spent her time ‘tearing about the streets on a very rusty cycle’. Her interest of and involvement in politics has been detailed, along with the championing of several causes close to her heart.

Mark Bostridge’s introduction cites Vera Brittain’s belief that: ‘Although we didn’t exactly grow up together… we grew mature together, and that is the next best thing’. He goes on to describe how ‘as writers they were the most decisive influences on each other’s work’. Bostridge believes that ‘Brittain’s perception of Holtby is at times too clouded by her own grief, and by guilt at having exploited her best friend’s generosity, even unwittingly, during her final illness’. This seems rather a clouded view, as in no sense does Brittain’s account read in this way. Contrary to Bostridge’s opinion, she seems the perfect writer for a biography of this sort. She knew Holtby intimately for many years, living together in London and publishing their début novels almost simultaneously, and consequently saw Holtby as her ‘second self’. Such first-hand knowledge of her subject allows Testament of Friendship to read like the very best of biographies. Facts about Holtby’s life have been reinforced with wonderful descriptions and her importance in the lives of everyone she met is made paramount throughout.

Parallels of Holtby’s own experiences have been drawn to the characters which people her novels, along with the incidents which drove her to write. Testament of Friendship is rather sad at times. Whilst Holtby was encouraged to learn and study at renowned institutions, her family and those living in her village in the East Riding of Yorkshire did not understand her fame. As a collective they were ‘equally unimpressed by her literary renown’ and Brittain believes that a ‘proficiency at bridge or folk-dancing would have seemed to them of similar significance’.

Poems of Holtby’s have been included throughout, adding a lovely touch to the biography. Brittain has also made use of adorable childhood anecdotes, including childhood friendships, favourite pastimes and the relationship which Holtby had with her elder sister Grace. A wealth of memories has been dipped into to provide a rich history of Holtby’s life, from its beginning to its sad end.

Brittain’s prose is poetic and informative in equal measure. The rich writing allows the account to be read almost like a novel at times. Whilst Brittain signposts events important to her, she always uses them in the context of Holtby’s life too. Never does she lose sight of her friend. Testament of Friendship is a must-read, providing a rich and fascinating portrait of an admirable woman.

Purchase from the Book Depository

2

One From the Archive: ‘Anderby Wold’ by Winifred Holtby

From April 2012

‘Anderby Wold’ by Winifred Holtby (Virago)

Despite being relatively popular in her day, Winifred Holtby shot to the limelight in the United Kingdom last year. This is due in part to Virago’s beautiful reprinted editions of several of her novels, and also because of the delightful BBC adaptation of her most famous book, South Riding. The Yorkshire-born author always writes with such astonishing clarity which allows the thoughts and feelings of her characters to rise to prominence as her stories progress. She writes about those situations which she has experience of, and the characters which feature in her novels seem all the more real because of it.

Anderby Wold takes place in the small village of Anderby in the East Riding of Yorkshire. The novel opens with the formidable character of Sarah Bannister who seems intent upon bossing her husband Tom around. Sarah has ‘too much respect for her own judgment to acknowledge an error’ in her character. Details like this which feature heavily throughout Holtby’s narrative set her writing apart from other novels. She is not too blatant or obvious with the details which she mentions, and her writing certainly benefits as a result.

The inhabitants of Anderby Wold, John and Mary Robson, are soon introduced. They are cousins who are currently trapped in a loveless marriage with one another. Sarah, John’s sister, and Tom are travelling to their farm for a celebratory ‘tea party’. The plot revolves around the Robson family, all of whom are used to rural life and are intent upon preserving the familial intermarrying which has occurred for generations. Mary is discontent with her lot in life until she chances upon the young, rebellious author David Rossiter, sixteen years her junior. The relationship between Mary and David is crafted wonderfully. They mock each other and bring a real sense of joviality and comradeship to the novel. A wonderful example of this is when David tells Mary: ‘as it is, every time you are nice to me, I have to recite little pieces of Marx to myself to convince me what an abomination you really are’.

The novel sparkles from the outset. The reader is in the company of a wonderful author who crafts such believable stories and peoples them with rich and wonderful characters. Despite using the third person perspective, Holtby is able to capture the most in-depth thoughts and intricacies of feelings of each of her characters. Her descriptions are sublime. She builds up marvellous pasts for her characters and uses these to build friction and tension between them. The characters in Anderby Wold are all diverse and range from self-important Sarah and clumsy maid Violet to quiet John and keen-to-please Mary. Mary is intent upon being her own person in the village and not becoming like the women around her who fill their lives with empty chatter about ‘maids, their sisters… [and] the price of wool for socks’. Sarah is obstinate and disapproving and is unable to see the positive side in any given situation, but she is a vivid character from the outset. Even without Holtby’s character descriptions, one can imagine each of the people she has created as realistically as if they had just passed them by in the street.

The dialects used throughout are written well. They are not over-exaggerated and do not detract from what is actually being said. The conversations between characters are often amusing and, by the same token, incredibly heartfelt. Holtby’s choice of vocabulary and the order in which she puts them are often surprising. Among the best examples of this are a character who ‘bowed severely’ and ‘Mrs Toby’s four unattractive little daughters possessed the sole talent of acquiring infectious diseases’.

As in South Riding, many characters feature in the novel, some of them briefly and some throughout. Similarly, the sense of community is incredibly strong, and clashes exist between the people and the County Council as well as those of differing classes and social standings. Like South Riding’s Sarah Burton, Anderby Wold’s main protagonist Mary is a teacher. Both novels are stylistically and thematically similar.

Many themes gain prominence throughout Anderby Wold. These include ageing, family, presuppositions, the building of relationships, life and death, community, the notion of outsiders, altering perceptions, class and social change. Social nuances, many of them rather silly, are included throughout to build up a realistic feel of the period in which the novel is set. Anderby Wold is a many-layered book which intrigues and informs in equal measure.

Anderby Wold was Holtby’s first novel and was published in 1923. There is nothing old-fashioned about it, however. The issues which she addresses are still of interest to the majority and the characters which she has fashioned so lovingly are fresh and continually intriguing. The novel is a must read.

Purchase from The Book Depository

0

Flash Reviews (17th December 2013)

No Holly for Miss Quinn by Miss Read ***
I really enjoyed the first Thrush Green book I came across, and jumped at the chance of reading a lovely orange-spined Christmas story which forms part of another of Miss Read’s series, Fairacre.  It seems as though No Holly for Miss Quinn is relatively far on in the series, but each novel is self-contained, so it does not really seem to matter if they are read out of order.  This book tells the story of Miriam Quinn, a spinster of sorts, who moves into Holly Cottage with a lovely lady named Joan Benson, following the close deaths of Joan’s husband and mother-in-law.  Rather than be left to settle in, Miriam is soon swept away to Norfolk to care for her brother’s children whilst his wife is ordered to stay in hospital over Christmas.  The entire book is quaint and quite charming, as I expect the whole series to be.  I did not enjoy it as much as I did News from Thrush Green, but it was a nice little read nonetheless.

‘The Crowded Street’ by Winifred Holtby (Virago Modern Classics)

The Crowded Street by Winifred Holtby ****
I love Holtby’s writing and look forward to each of her novels.  The Crowded Street is the second book which she wrote, and it was first published in 1924.  The story itself begins in 1900, and is written beautifully.  The first chapter particularly is utterly sublime.  I love the descriptions which she crafts, and she clearly understands her characters so well.  I was rather fond throughout of the protagonist Muriel, particularly when she was young.    I very much enjoyed the way in which the plot is split into separate sections to denote time moving forward.  The entirety of The Crowded Street is so absorbing.

Holtby is definitely one of my favourite authors on the entire Virago list.  Her stories never fail to disappoint, and her characters – particularly the protagonists – are so memorable.  Whilst I did not quite adore this as I did The Land of Green Ginger, it is still a marvellous novel.

The Ersatz Elevator by Lemony Snicket ****
I have been warned against using Wikipedia countless times, and usually search out more reliable websites in my quest for information, but this time I failed miserably.  Before I ordered The Ersatz Elevator, hoping to continue with my reading of the Series of Unfortunate Events books in order, I quickly looked up the chronological order in which the books were published.  I knew that the next book which I needed was the fifth, and Wikipedia told me that The Ersatz Elevator was the fifth published.  Naturally, I ordered it. When it arrived however, I found that I had actually purchased the sixth book rather than the fifth.  Having put myself on a pre-Christmas book-buying ban, and being too impatient to wait until the new year to supplement my collection with the correct volume, I decided to begin regardless.  The books in the series are rather predictable in that you know something troublesome is always going to happen which puts the lives of the Baudelaire orphans in peril, but they will always overcome it in the most clever of ways.  The Ersatz Elevator is really very clever, and is certainly the most original plot in the series so far.