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"South Riding" was first published in 1936. It is an easy-to-read but very interesting story, set in a fictional district of Yorkshire. It follows the town and its characters after the arrival of a newcomer who views the town with the most critical eyes, Sarah Burton. Young and passionate, she moves to the South Riding to become the headteacher in the local girls' school. The majority of the story follows Sarah and Mrs Beddows - the first woman Alderman of the South Riding, older, more conservative and more middle class - and how they and others endeavour to deal with the problems of poverty in the district. Their lives are made more difficult by Robert Carne of Maythorpe Hall, trying to keep himself out of poverty by keeping many more people in it, who seems to lack a social conscience but is tormented by his failed marriage. Mrs Beddows attempts to deal with him and his young daughter, whilst Sarah finds herself falling in love with him, despite their opposing politics. The cast is huge and sometimes it can be difficult to keep track of characters, but all of them come across as individuals - Holtby is amazing at characterisation and never falls back on stereotypes. This is a novel concerned with politics but you shouldn't let that put you off as the characters are full and three-dimensional, none of them perfect and none of them written off as simply evil either. I really enjoyed it, it's a large book and an engaging read.