August 31, 2011

Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons: Review

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Flora Poste's parents just died in the annual Spanish Flu epidemic, leaving her with £100 a year and no house to live in. Her friend Mrs Smiling suggests getting a job but Flora seems to think the right idea is to go live with some long lost relatives. After dashing off a few letters, the only promising response is a enigmatic missive from Cold Comfort Farm in Howling, Sussex about "coming for her rights." Flora trots off Sussex aiming to find out just what those rights are.

When she gets there she meets the Starkadders, a cast of characters straight out of a Thomas Hardy novel (or an Oprah Book Club selection), the head of the clan is Aunt Ada Doom who ain't been right since she saw something nasty in the woodshed... or maybe it was the potting shed... Anyway if anyone attempts to leave Cold Comfort Farm she pitches a fit and yells "there will always be Starkadders at Cold Comfort." So there they all stay, snarling at each other until the end of time.

Flora, unimpressed with all the raging dramatics, sets herself the task of civilizing this brood and turning Cold Comfort into a profitable venture. It won't be easy but Flora won't give up until everyone at Cold Comfort is exactly how she wants them to be.

Have you ever wanted to knock some sense into characters in a book when they are behaving like idiots? There have been many moments where I thought the solution to characters' problems was a good dose of common sense... or Prozac. Flora Poste does everything I wished I could. She's practical, sensible and ready take on the craziness of Cold Comfort Farm.

And just who are these people? There's Meriam, the hired girl, who gets knocked up every spring when the sukebind is in bloom and a peculiar feeling takes hold of her. That feeling is personified in the form of Seth, the heart throb of Cold Comfort. As soon as he was described, Colin Farrell popped in my head. His mother Judith, lays on the bed staring at the ceiling as she obsesses over Seth, even though she has other children. She's a lot like Mrs Morel from Sons & Lovers- totally inappropriate. Amos, her husband, preaches hell-fire to Howling. Reuben, another son, is fixated on farm. Adam is the farmhand who worries over Elfine. Cousin Elfine is the fairy-like creature promised to Urk but wishing to marry the local gentry.

There's one more odd character who does not live on Cold Comfort Farm but in staying in the village, Mr Mybug. He is an intellectual writing a book about how the Bronte girls were a bunch of drunks and brother Branwell wrote all the books. He is obsessed with sex and nature. He sees sex in every flower or insect. When he tries to talk about these things with Flora, she ignores him, not because she's a prude just not interested. He reminded me a lot of the old perv in The Children's Book who liked to lecture naked and seduce unsuspecting young women. I guess that was a thing back in those days.

Of course, Flora takes them on one at a time and tidies them up. While I loved Flora, I wished that maybe she didn't always get her way. Or was forced to make some compromises.

Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons was written in 1932, though it is set "in the near future." It has a distinctive 1930s vibe but then Gibbons throws in something off, like a war that never happened or how everyone has an airplane. It always made me stop and say, "Huh?" and then I'd remember, "Oh yeah, that's fake." It's quirky. I love the quirkiness. Cold Comfort Farm made me laugh especially since I've read my fair share of overwrought rural dramas. It was nice to find a character willing to do what I always wanted.

Recommended.

Thanks to Jill for the copy (who was not a fan of CCF.)

Ratings:

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6 comments :

  1. Great review! I can see you loved the book, and reading your review I'm loving the book all over again.

    Cold Comfort Farm was a movie or tv series (can't remember) in which Seth was played by Rufus Sewell and now I cannot imagine any other Seth.

    It was fun how the book was set in a slightly later age, didn't they also have video phones?

    Great book, I do always recommend it to people when we happen to mention the book.

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  2. Judith- I found the whole movie on Youtube after I read it and watched the whole thing! Rufus did a good job as Seth, very brooding. And yes, they had video phones in the book!

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  3. This is one of my favorite books!! You may be terrified to hear I know a lot of people in real life like the Starkadders (drama queeenss), so I had a lot of fun watching Flora deal with them.

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  4. I love quirky so this sounds very appealing to me.

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  5. I'm glad you were able to give this one more love than I could!

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  6. Aw, I've been wanting to read this one for so long now!! I really need to get to it.

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