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!
it's interesting that for such a feminist book, Holtby picks such a stereotypical, dominant man riding a big black horse, type of love interest.
of course she subverts it by NOT getting it consummated and then him dying (sorry about spoilers Stewie) but there seemed to be something slightly depressing in the idea that even these modern women go weak at the knees at the sight of a tall strong ungovernable landowner.
I know she tries to make it a lot subtler than that though.
Mrs Beddows' love for Carne is one of the most interesting things about the book I think. There's the suggestion that she loved him too much, it was sort of an indulgence she allowed herself, and it makes her a much more rounded character the way her love for him is ambiguous, partly seeing him as a son, partly admiring him physically. I didn't pick up on the socialism/feminism parallel there but you're right.
I don't think so, but he's so wrapped up in his own problems (which admittedly are considerable) and also he's used to women admiring him, he probably doesn't ever notice unless he's after a shag. He would be a relatively unattractive character (seen dispassionately) if it weren't for his love for Midge - which of course is what makes Sarah change her view of him.
yes Alemci, there are a few minor characters who didn't make it into the tv version and one of them is the insurance salesman who is plunged into poverty.
There's a very touching scene where he has to go to the assistance committee for money and Carne is on the committee having just tried and failed to borrow some money from his brother himself and the man is all ashamed and embarrassed and Carne makes a joke about it and makes him feel better.