Original date of publication: 1927
My edition: 1987 (Virago)
Why I decided to read: heard about it through LTER’s Virago Modern Classics group
How I acquired my copy: Ebay, August 2010
Born in Africa to English parents, Joanna grows up back in England. During WWI, she meets Teddy, a young man with tuberculosis (although she doesn’t know it at the time). They settle down on a farm in Yorkshire with their two daughters. A group of Eastern European workers move into town, including a young interpreter from Hungary who Joanna befriends. Their friendship is the start of her troubles with Teddy, and eventually leads to tragedy.
This is a very powerful, strongly emotional novel (without going overboard). Despite the fact that Teddy is an invalid, it’s nearly impossible for the reader to like or sympathize with him; he constantly feels sorry for himself. Joanna is high-spirited, and this is also what causes a rift between the two of them. Joanna doesn’t fit in with her English neighbors, so it’s only natural that she develops a friendship with Paul, another outsider. I love how Winifred Holtby is able to communicate all of this without explicitly saying it out loud. What I like about Holtby’s novels is that they’re free of histrionics. But the emotion is there, right under the surface. The ending of this book is supposed to be happy and uplifting, but it left me feeling a bit sad, too.