Joanna Burton is a naive girl with a huge sense of adventure who has always wanted to travel the world in this most touching of Winifred Holtby’s books. Born in Africa but brought to England as a small child, Joanna has never felt like she quite fit in and has always wanted to return to the “land of green ginger.” During World War I she meets a young officer, Teddy Leigh, who tells her he is going to give her the world as a golden ball, and she believes him.
Several years later, however, she is living on a Yorkshire farm with two little girls and an ailing husband. Not only was Teddy gassed during the war, but he hid from her his history of tuberculosis.
As Joanna struggles to deal ineptly with the farm, her husband, and her children, a nearby landowner asks if they could take a Hungarian man in as a roomer. Joanna is so preoccupied with her troubles that she doesn’t notice her husband’s irrational jealousy or the rumors starting up in the village about her relationship with the Hungarian.
This novel is beautifully written and painful to read at times, as the readers see Joanna unconsciously make misstep after misstep and the neighborhood gossips become vicious indeed. Holtby only wrote a few books before she died at the age of 37, but she was a master at depicting life in the Yorkshire countryside and small towns.