Monday, July 8, 2013

Cold Comfort Farm: Review

Oh my goodness. What a delight!  How did I manage to miss reading this before now? Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons is a deliciously funny send up of British rural life and the Victorian and pastoral novels that portrayed British life.  Flora Poste reminds me of an unintentionally humorous,
much more interfering and commonsensical version of Pollyanna.  She's so very sure that any mess can be overcome with commonsense, sensible shoes, proper garments, correct thoughts and good manners.  And it would seem that she is right.

Flora finds herself orphaned in the 1930s.  Her good friend advises that she should get herself a job (and a good brassiere) and settle down to take care of herself, but Flora is determined to live off her relatives--for "whereas there still lingers some absurd prejudice against living on one's friends, no limits are set, either by society or by one's own conscience, to the amount one may impose upon one's relatives."  She sends out letters to all the likely victi--er, sponsors and settles on the Starkadders of Cold Comfort Farm.  She does this in part because it seems most likely that there will situations that need straightening out and Flora is just the girl to do it.

She arrives to find that her Aunt Ada Doom has been running the entire family's lives from the privacy of her bedroom--coming down only occasionally to go over the books and fuss about how the farm is being run.  She won't allow any changes and she won't allow anyone to leave....all because she once "saw something nasty in the woodshed" when she was small and it drove her quite mad.  And it will drive her even madder still if the family doesn't bow to her wishes.  Or so they think.

Enter Flora--who soon takes everyone in hand.  She sorts out love affairs, sends Amos off to preach abroad, gets Adam a new dish mop to do dishes with (not that he does), marries off most of the family, and even manages to lure Aunt Ada from her bedroom for more than a look at the books.  And then manages to fly off into the sunset with the knowledge of a job well done.

The descriptions in this book are an absolute hoot--from the characters to the over-the-top Victorian method of describing the country side.  Flora's philosophy of life is overwhelming--she can't bear messes, not even from Mother Nature herself.  "Nature is all very well in her place, but she must not be allowed to make things untidy."  Great fun and four stars.


Faith said...

This book has been on my TBR list for a while. Thanks for reminding me about it!

Peggy Ann said...

I love Stella Gibbons! So funny while making a statement.

J F Norris said...

Great book! Now you ought to catch the movie. I'm sure it's on DVD.

I think there is a sequel to COLD COMFORT FARM but I have yet to find a copy. Her nephew, ghost story writer Reggie Oliver, wrote a biography about her I would like to read someday. ALso, Gibbons' book NIGHTINGALE WOOD is supposed to be even better than this one reviewed here.

Bev Hankins said...


I think our library has the other Cold Comfort book. May have to check.


Debbie Rodgers said...

I was going to read this earlier this year for the Keyword Challenge and then found somethining else. I think I'll get back to Cold Comfort Farm sooner rather than later! Thanks for the reminder.

The Insouciant Sophisticate said...

I liked this book a lot but wonder if I would have enjoyed it even more if I had known more of the British pastoral novels that are being spoofed (I think Thomas Hardy is the author of many but I've never read him.)

Bev Hankins said...

@John: Have secured the movie. Plan to watch ASAP.

@Bookworm1858--knowing some of the British pastorals (though not all, by any means) did help a bit. But I'm quite sure that Thomas Hardy was included in the spoofing--and he's one I haven't read yet.

Julianne said...

I love this book! The film is just as good.