Stella Gibbons – Cold Comfort Farm (Book Review)

cold comfort farm stella gibbonsOpening Line: 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.

Book Cover Blurb: When sensible, sophisticated Flora Poste is orphaned at nineteen, she decides her only choice is to descend upon relatives in deepest Sussex.

At the aptly-named Cold Comfort Farm, she meets the doomed Starkadders: cousin Judith, heaving with remorse for unspoken wickedness; Amos, preaching fire and damnation; their sons, lustful Seth and despairing Reuben; child of nature Elfine; and crazed old Aunt Ada Doom, who has kept to her bedroom for the last twenty years.

But Flora loves nothing better than to organise other people. Armed with common sense and a strong will, she resolves to take each of the family in hand. A hilarious and ruthless parody of rural melodramas and purple prose, Cold Comfort Farm is one of the best-loved comic novels of all time.

Genre: Humour / Classics

Sample Passage:

One of the disadvantages of almost universal education was the fact that all kinds of persons acquired a familiarity with one’s favorite writers. It gave one a curious feeling; it was like seeing a drunken stranger wrapped in one’s dressing gown.

Review

Unfortunately the Kindle version of the book was badly structured and had typos on every page. I’m looking beyond those flaws to focus only on the book.

One of the refreshing things about working my way through the BBC Big Read Top 100 List, is that I’m reading stories that wouldn’t otherwise appeal to me. Were it not for this placing high on that list, I’d run a mile.

Published in 1932, this is a story of rural life on a farm outside London. A very quick read, it focuses on an outsider, Flora who takes it upon herself to visit the Starkadder clan – a backward, odd bunch of people who are distant relatives.

To say Flora is a little more cultured would be an understatement and this disparity makes for some funny episodes, e.g. the Dance and her interactions with Elfine. Seeing what she has inherited, Flora decides to begin organising the affairs of the farm. Not through any charitable or greater good, but more often than not to make her own conditions more tolerable.

Over the next six months, and under the ever watchful eye of Aunt Ada Doom, whom the family fear upsetting enormously, she is a busy body sending the residents off on different tangents, tying up loose ends making the little farm run smoothly.

There are some nicely drawn characters in the book. I liked Aunt Ada and I was eager to discover why she had become the recluse in later years – something that was frustratingly never revealed. Flora’s disdain for Mr. Mybug was quite funny, mainly because he’s fat and always talks about sex.

A lot of what we read is through the eyes of Flora who is not without her own faults. She’s a bit of a spoilt brat at the start with delusions of grandeur. However, because of the results of some of her actions (some of it sneaky as she plays characters like an instrument), there are unhappy characters that find joy through her endeavours.

That being said, there was a bunch of characters cluttering up the farm. Some half drawn that didn’t really need to be introduced, and only served to confuse. There were no particularly dramatic moments and it read like a breezy little novella without there being any plot. A sequence of short stories loosely tied together made the bulk of the narrative.

There was no grandstand finish and many of the characters, having filled their purpose in their own little segment, suddenly dropped off.

Overall – A decent read that has aged well, but ultimately lacking any depth to sustain the reader.

Author: Stella Gibbons
Other Books Written: Christmas at Cold Comfort Farm
Time to Complete: 1 week
Interesting Fact: Gibbons is responsible for introducing one of the most famous passages in literature (through Aunt Ada Doom recounting an experience of her youth) that has crept into everyday use to describe seeing something terrible – “something nasty in the woodshed.”
Rating: 6 /10

Next BookGood Omens, Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman

Part of the BBC Big Read 100 List

Further Reading – Remembering BBC’s The Big Read, The Top 100 Quotes from the Top 100 Novels

pathfinders chapter 1

4 thoughts on “Stella Gibbons – Cold Comfort Farm (Book Review)

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