Thursday, 3 August 2017

Classic Literature: Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons

Book Review

Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons - Reading, Writing, Booking

"I saw something nasty in the woodshed."

Cold Comfort Farm is written by Stella Gibbons and published by Penguin Essentials.

I know I've only just included this book in my July Favourites but I wanted to write a proper review of Cold Comfort Farm. Plus, I haven't reviewed a classic in a while. I always wonder if there's any point reviewing classic books, as pretty much everything that can be said about the book has already been said, but I enjoyed this book and wanted to share it, hopefully some people will take something new from it.


'We are not like other folk, maybe, but there have always been Starkadders at Cold Comfort Farm...'

Sensible, sophisticated Flora Poste has been expensively educated to do everything but earn a living. When she is orphaned at twenty, she decides her only option is to descend on relatives - the doomed Starkadders at the aptly named Cold Comfort Farm.

There is Judith in a scarlet shawl, heaving with remorse for an unspoken wickedness; raving old Ada Doom, who once saw something nasty in the woodshed; lustful Seth and despairing Reuben, Judith's two sons; and there is Amos, preaching fire and damnation to one and all.

As the sukebind flowers, Flora takes each of the family in hand and brings order to their chaos.

Cold Comfort Farm is a sharp and clever parody of the melodramatic and rural novel

As I'm usually reading some kind of thriller or murder mystery Cold Comfort Farm was a pleasant change for me, and one that was a long time coming. I was pretty sure I'd already read this book somewhere in the past, but I hadn't, so decided it was long over due.

Firstly, it's funny, maybe not "the funniest book ever written" but certainly chuckling aloud to yourself funny. It mocks overly dramatic rural novels, like those written by Thomas Hardy, so if you haven't read much in this genre some of the references may be over your head. I haven't read exhaustively of the genre, but enough to enjoy the references.

Cold Comfort Farm is 1930s satire at its best and reminds me a little of Nancy Mitford and Evelyn Waugh, but with a little more lightness. Gibbons tackles almost every subject with an amused detachment, from passionate love affairs to 'orphaned' twenty year olds.

"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."

Flora Poste brilliantly cuts through the country residents' doom and gloom with her unending sense. Sometimes I wish I had a Flora Poste around whenever I'm feeling inclined to self absorption or Starkadderness.
Occasionally, she urges on the irritating and sanctimonious; a little like Jane Austen's Emma you often want her to get something wrong just once, but this is all part of the beauty of the character.

"My idea of hell is a very large party in a cold room where everybody has to play hockey properly."

The other characters are all wonderful; deliberately over the top they are yet still believable, I could definitely emphasise with the perfectly named Elfine, recognising some rather dreamy attitudes of my younger self. There's also Urk with his water-voles and of course Aunt Ada Doom who saw something nasty in the wood shed.

Some (most) of the results of Flora's meddling with these characters are pretty unbelievable, with some characters suddenly becoming jet setters. But again, it's part of the charm and brilliantly mocking absurdity that makes this book a wonderful read.

Light and yet clever, I can see why Cold Comfort Farm is so well loved.

My Rating: 4/5

Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons - Reading, Writing, Booking

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