The act of reading ... begins on a flat surface, counter or page, and then gets stirred and chopped and blended until what we make, in the end, is a dish, or story, all our own.
— Adam Gopnik

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February 22, 2011

The page I'm reading now...

Lisening to, because I wasn't able to find this book in print form here, but I did find an audiobook.

It’s the damn letter from Harrogate, thought Hicks.

He met the postman, read postmarks and postcards, and kept an anxious, paternal eye on his master’s business. He knew all too well the discreet blue typewritten envelopes from the nursing home, or the sprawling uneven hand tilted up towards the top right-hand corner, which was his mistress’s. They let her write once a month, poor devil, but lately her letters had not appeared.

Hicks wondered if she had changed much. He could see her now as she was when she first came to the South Riding — a slim pale girl with wild brown eyes on a raking chestnut. She had been staying with the Lawrences. Mrs. Lawrence was laid up with a broken collar-bone and Mr. Rupert hunting his own hounds that day. ‘Miss Sedgmire comes from the West Country,’ Hicks had heard him saying to Carne. ‘I want you to look after her for me. She’s not used to our drains yet.’

After that, thought Hicks, it was she who’d led Carne. And what a dance she’d led him, not only across country but Europe. Baden-Baden, Cannes, San Remo — seeking cures for her ‘nerves.’ She never had nerves in the hunting season. It was the War that finished her. Not getting abroad and not able to hunt when her child was coming. Aye. That was it. If she’d been able to ride in the winter of ’17 and ’18, she wouldn’t be put away where she was now, poor lady — costing all that money and forcing Carne to sell his horses.

Hicks could remember how she walked up and down the dripping avenues at Maythorpe, fretting her heart out. ‘They won’t let me ride any more, Hicks,’ she used to complain, her eyes puzzled and as bright as a startled hare’s. Then she’d order the horse and trap and drive to the station and be off away to York or Doncaster or Newmarket — looking for race meetings that had never been billed...
Carne had had to go back to France before the baby arrived. He’d come out one day and stood in the stable-yard, a big fine chap in his uniform, but awkward and unhappy — and no wonder. ‘If Mrs. Carne orders you to get the trap ready, Hicks, don’t do it. Make some excuse. Say the mare’s lame or the shaft’s cracked. Lame the mare — crack the shaft if necessary. But don’t let her go. Doctor’s orders. Understand, eh?’
He knew she was queer then, and he had to go off and leave her alone to the care of grooms and servants.
from South Riding, by Winifred Holtby

Our friends in the UK are watching the new adaptation of South Riding now (it's not on the published schedule, but I read that it will be shown on Masterpiece in May, after Upstairs, Downstairs), and it's the Cornflower Book Group book for February.  I'm still early enough in the book to be figuring out who all the characters are, and I was a little surprised to read about who's involved in the central love story.  This passage (especially the line about 'Lame the mare, crack the shaft') was unexpectedly moving, and I've heard that the rest of the book, or at least the end, is too.

{image from Elizabeth Bradley}

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Joan Hunter Dunn said...

From a friend in the UK... Very much enjoying the new adaptation. Now I want to read the book!

lyn said...

I read SR years ago & loved it. I've heard good things about the adaptation so I've ordered it from Amazon. I don't know when we'll see it on TV in Australia.

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