The Land of Green Ginger by Winifred Holtby

The Land of Green Ginger was first published in 1927. It begins in South Africa where Joanna Burton is living with her parents but after their deaths she has to leave for England to live with some aunts and can only dream of returning to South Africa when she’s older. It’s set mainly in rural Yorkshire where Joanna, her husband Teddy Leigh and their two small daughters have settled after the end of the First World War.

Teddy had proposed to Joanna before he went off to the trenches, and full of love/lust/excitement? Joanna had accepted his offer of marriage. She thinks they’ll have a charmed life but her friend Rachel predicts doom and gloom and when Teddy returns from the trenches with his health broken it’s left to Joanna to keep their farm going and try to make ends meet.

I found this to be quite a depressing book. I must admit that when I was reading it I was under the impression that Winifred Holtby had died of TB and I thought to myself – how could she possibly write a book about a man dying of TB too? But it turns out that Holtby died of Bright’s disease.

The book does have some similarities to what has been going on all over the UK over the last few years, with a large number of men being brought in to rural Yorkshire where they are helping to plant trees. It doesn’t go down too well with the locals, particularly the men who are in need of work and are not at all happy about the foreign men who have caused trouble in the pub and amongst the local women. All very topical, but a bit bleak all round. I feel in need of something a bit more upbeat now.

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