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When Sarah Burton returns to her hometown as headmistress she is full of ambition, determined to create a great school and to inspire her girls to take all they can from life. But in the aftermath of the First World War, the country is in depression and ideals are hard won. Lydia Holly, the scholarship girl from the shacks, is the most brilliant student Sarah has ever taught, but when her mother's health fails, her education must be sacrificed - there is body else to care for the children. Robert Carne of Maythorpe Hall stands for everything Sarah despises: his family has farmed the South Riding for generations, their position uncontested. Yet Sarah cant help being drawn to this proud, haunted - and almost ruined - man. South Riding is a rich, paramic vel, bringing vividly to life a rural community on the brink of change.
Winifred Holtby (1898-1935), journalist, critic, feminist, pacifist and author won the James Tait Black Memorial prize with South Riding, her last novel.