Thursday, 5 August 2010

Joanna Godden (Sheila Kaye-Smith) 115

""'She forgets her distrust of the night air in all her misery of throbbing head and heart, and flung back the casement, so that the soft marsh wind came in, with rain upon it, and her tears were mingled with the tears of night. 'Oh God!' she moaned to herself - 'why didn't you make me a man?''

My latest VMC read marked a return to more familiar Virago Modern Classic territory with a saga-style story centring around a strong female lead and dealing with issues of feminism. This was Joanna Godden (Sheila Kaye Smith) (one of those titles that sits on the shelf and confuses you as to which is the author, and which is the title).

Set in Romney, Sussex, it follows the story of Joanna, recently bereaved of her father and left the family sheep-farm. It is expected that she will marry, in order to gain a man to run the estate, but Joanna refuses to follow convention and takes on the management of the farm herself. It is no easy task for a woman, and Joanna also has a constant stream of suitors. However, she would not be able to achieve professional fulfilment in running the farm if she were to accept one, since they would take over the farm. And this dilemma is the very heart of the book.

It was made into a film in 1947, entitled The loves of Joanna Godden, made by the Ealing Studios and with music by Vaughan Williams - think it would make for a wonderful rainy Sunday afternoon film. But apparently it has a very different ending to the book.

It's just got the one rather lovely original green cover. Virago also publish her novel Susan Spray, and I shall be interested to see how that compares.


  1. I think this is the author who has written about Jane Austen? I don't have this one in my collection and will need to look out for it. It sounds interesting.

  2. Thanks, I'll add this to my TBR pile - hopefully my library will have a copy!

  3. Thank you for posting about Joanne Godden. I've been intrigued about reading this since the poster for the film adaptation was featured on the Persephone Post. After Googling this, the description reminded me a bit of Gone with the Wind with is one of my favourites. AFter reading your post I am going to have to look out for this now!

  4. Penny - I'm not sure if she has or not. Must find out!

    Lesley - fingers crossed!

    A bookish space - I thought the same when I read about hte film!

  5. About ten years ago, I went on quite a big Sheila Kaye-Smith reading spree--most of her novels are out of print(including the two published by Virago, Joanna Godden and Susan Spray), but a hunt through second hand bookshops proved fruitful, and I found about eight of her books, several of them in the 'Sussex edition'. She's a fascinating writer, outmoded in some ways, but wonderful to read, evoking a world that's gone for ever. I do think Joanna Godden is her best book, though. Look out for the old film of the novel; it's well worth watching.