Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Cold Comfort Farm: Stella Gibbons

I have heard so much about Cold Comfort Farm over the years. I had to try it, but I was hesitant. The book is described as a parody of rural novels written in the early 1900s. Not being familiar with those novels, I wasn't sure how much it would mean to me. The title of the book conjured up something quite different. So I was surprised to find that I loved it, from the first page.

The book opens after Flora Poste's parents have died:
The education bestowed on Flora Poste by her parents had been expensive, athletic and prolonged: and when they died within a few weeks of one another during the annual epidemic of the influenza or Spanish Plague which occurred in her twentieth year, she was discovered to possess every art and grace save that of earning her own living.
Her father had always been spoken of as a wealthy man, but on his death his executors were disconcerted to find him a poor one. After death duties had been paid and the demands of creditors satisfied, his child was left with an income of one hundred pounds a year, and no property.
Thus, after writing to various relatives, Flora Poste decides to move in with her country relatives, the Starkadders of Cold Comfort Farm.

In various reviews and articles, Flora Poste has been compared to Jane Austen's Emma Woodhouse. That never occurred to me because the two stories are so different, but it is a valid comparison, because Flora wants to set everything right and fix everyone's lives. Or at least everyone living at Cold Comfort Farm. And at the Starkadder's farm, everyone does need at least a little help.

I was dubious of her attitude of taking over initially. Who was she to think she knew what was right for everyone? But as she worked her magic gradually with each person, and helped them find their way, I began to enjoy it.

There are so many interesting and entertaining characters that I cannot include them all. Flora is at the top of the list, of course. Then there is Judith Starkadder, the matriarch, who only cares for her son Seth. Seth, in turn, is handsome and sexy but all he is really interested in is the movies at the local theater. Amos, the father, preaches at the Church of the Quivering Brethren and hates being tied to the farm. Reuben, the other son, is the only one who really cares about the farm. None of them are happy. And that just scratches the surface.

This is not a book that is meant to be taken seriously, and I found it a lot of fun. But there are readers who don't find it funny or enjoyable, and I would hesitate to recommend to everyone. I do think it is a book worth trying, and I am sure I will be reading it again.

Some other posts to check out:


Publisher:  Penguin Books, 2006 (orig. pub. 1932). 
Length:     233 pages
Format:     Trade Paperback
Setting:     UK
Genre:      Fiction
Source:    I purchased this book.
Introduction by Lynne Truss.
Cover by Roz Chast.


NancyElin said...

I don't know if I'll read the book, but the film version looks like a hilarious movie to put on my 'Xmas Holidays' movie list!

col2910 said...

I have picked this one up a couple of times in the past and almost immediately rejected it. Glad you enjoyed it, but on balance not one for me thanks.

Margot Kinberg said...

I've always wondered about that book, too, Tracy. I'm very glad to hear that you enjoyed it as much as you did, and it certainly does sound entertaining. Hmmm...may have to move this to the wish list.

Katrina said...

I first read this one years before I started blogging and it had me laughing out loud a lot. Even my husband appreciated it, but I suppose you need to have a sense of humour to appreciate it. The other books are worth reading too but not as good I think.

Cath said...

Given you liked it so much I'll take the plunge and read it at some stage... possibly add it to my 2020 reading intentions.

TracyK said...

I have just purchased a copy of the film and will be watching it soon, Nancy. I never expect a film to be as good as the book, but it sounds like it will still be fun.

TracyK said...

I am not surprised, Col. But I can say that it can take some time to get into.

TracyK said...

As I said in the post, Margot, I think it is worth a try. But it does not suit everyone's taste.

TracyK said...

I am getting to enjoy humorous books more the older I get, Katrina. That must be a good thing. But humor is very individual.

TracyK said...

I hope you like it if you try it, Cath, and either way I will be interested in what you think of it.

Rick Robinson said...

I'm late commenting this week, but I'll only say I haven't read it though I have vague memories of it being on public TV sometime in the past and seeing part of it then. I don't even know if I enjoyed it.

Bill Selnes said...

An interesting review but I will pass. Cannot give a ready explanation but the book does not appeal to me.

TracyK said...

From what I have read, Rick, there were two BBC versions, and the one I plan to watch is from 1995. The other one was much earlier. Both have good actors in the roles.

TracyK said...

It worked for me but I don't think it would for everyone, Bill. I did not think I would like a parody but I guess it depends on the author and my mood at the time too.