I'm going to post early because my internet is a bit unreliable at the moment and there's a risk I might not be able to tomorrow (and it would be ridiculous if I didn't join in at all, what with me being a character from the book and all.)
When I watched the tv series before reading the book I was a bit freaked by the idea of the rapist as romantic hero, but when you read the book it's interesting how much Holtby stresses how much Carne is punished for what he did: firstly, his constant guilt (the bit about him not being able to enjoy a nice meal ever again because Muriel can't have one), the financial consequences, with his farm being ruined by the cost of the asylum, and finally his death - not a direct result of his wrongdoing in the book, but in the sense that fallen women are often 'punished' in Victorian novels by dying, his death feels retributive in sort of karmic terms. In a way, though, he still doesn't quite add up for me, because Holtby generally draws him as so noble and splendid, and yet, you know, rape; does she see it as the kind of mistake any man can make?
looking forward to this discussion. It's years since I read it, early teens, so I guess i've forgotten a lot, if I even registered it in the first place.
Interestingly, it was my dad who made me read it, on the grounds that all young girls should. Especially regarding Lydia being such a clever girl and denied an education because of the duties of her gender.
<Bluff old farmer dad (RIP) was a bit of a feminist, really>
oh he must also have loved it because of it showing the financial realities of farming (and possibly also because of the farmer character being all attractive and romantic) Sal.
Holtby is really writing what she knows about, I think that's one of the book's greatest strengths.
Did anyone else pick up the acerbic reference to Cold Comfort Farm, where Carne's frivolous and pretentious SIL says 'How are your cows, what are their names, Graceless, Pointless and Feckless?' (except she gets it wrong). I read one of Holtby's earlier ones, Anderby Wold, after that, and realised it is definitely one of the books being lampooned by Gibbons in Cold Comfort Farm, so the ref to it in South Riding put in the mouth of a dislikeable character is Holtby's response to that.
I loved this book so much. Partly because I live in the East Riding (which "is" the South Riding) and she describes the area very well. The Virago edition has a painting of the Dales on the front which is COMPLETELY DIFFERENT <rage>
@ Sybil. Maybe that was my dad's reasoning. But it also struck very close to home for him. A childhood (female) friend of his was forced to leave school at 12 to look after the house and children after her mother died. She was very bright, but her brothers got the chances she didn't. I remember he mentioned what a waste it was many times. This would have been the 60's. The book is quite hot on girls' education & leftyism afair - as was my father. Sorry for making the discussion a bit personal. But at least I'm making the place look busy and it's all I can remember!