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Review: Anderby Wold, by Winifred Holtby

Pages: 310

Original date of publication: 1923

My edition: 1981 (Virago)

Why I decided to read: Winifred Holtby is one of my favorite authors

How I acquired my copy: Ebay, February 2011

Winifred Holtby quickly became one of my favorite authors when I read The Crowded Street early last year. Although Anderby Wold was Holbty’s first published novel, it ranks up there as one of my favorites. The novel is set in a familiar Holtby milieu—agricultural and rural Yorkshire. Mary Robson is a young housewife married to a man much older than she. Her marriage is pleasant, but lacking in passion. Although she has lived in Anderby all her life, she is somewhat of an outsider. Nonetheless, she’s a kind of social queen. One day, in the most dramatic fashion possible, she meets David Rossitur, a socialist writer who really shakes things up, so to speak, both in Anderby and with Mary herself.

Anderby Wold suffers a little bit from first-time writer’s syndrome; Winifred Holtby uses a few writers’ clich├ęs here and there (witness the scene where Mary and David meet. The introduction of David into Mary’s life certainly isn’t subtle, and David is mentioned by name even before Mary knows who he is). But you can definitely see where Winifred Holtby’s career is going. The hallmarks of her books are there: a provincial Yorkshire town; an opinionated, outsider main character. South Riding, in my opinion, is one of her best books, but Anderby Wold comes a close second.

This is a novel that is heavy on character development; this is also a novel where the place in which it’s set also becomes a character. Winifred Holtby’s love for Yorkshire is very clear in this book. The author tends to hit her reader over the head with her political themes, but she’s not partial to one side or the other.

Winifred Holtby was born into a farming family in Yorkshire; for many years, she was a friend of the writer Vera Brittain (who wrote about her in Testament of Friendship, a copy of which I intend to track down immediately). She published six novels and several collections of short stories. Tragically, Holtby died of kidney disease at the age of 37. If not for that, Winifred Holtby could easily have been one of the 20th century’s greatest female writers. As it is, it’s a shame that her books are nearly out of print (although Virago is doing another revival of five of them this spring) and that she isn’t better known.


Karen K. said…
I really must read Holtby soon! I have South Riding on the TBR shelf and the miniseries starts tonight on PBS! I'm dying to read it but have so many other books to read first. I think this is going on my birthday wishlist. . . .
Aarti said…
Oh, I'm so glad to see you review this! I just caught up on PBS's miniseries tonight and I think Holtby is an author I would love, based on the first episode :-)

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