Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons

Book #650
Reviewer: Tall, Short & Tiny

Cold Comfort FarmOne reviewer said of Cold Comfort Farm, “Very probably the funniest book ever written” (Julie Burchill, Sunday Times), while another touted it as having “comic aplomb”.

I tend to agree; this is an amusing story. The characters, the situation, the language – I found myself chuckling outwardly on many occasions. The names of the cows on the farm were especially amusing: Graceless, Aimless, Feckless and Pointless, and served to highlight this as a parody on the usually romanticised portrayal of rural life in the 1930s.

Following the death of her parents, Flora Poste is left wondering how she is going to make enough money to survive. In talking to her friend, Mrs Smiling, she decides to contact her various relatives, because “no limits are set, either by society or one’s own conscience, to the amount one may impose on one’s relatives”. She decides to visit distant relatives on Cold Comfort Farm, in Sussex, saying,

“I think if I find that I have any third cousins living at Cold Comfort Farm who are named Seth, or Reuben, I shall decide not to go….because highly sexed young men living on farms are always called Seth or Reuben, and it would be such a nuisance. And my cousin’s name, remember is Judith. That in itself is most ominous. Her husband is almost certain to be called Amos; and if he is, it will be a typical farm, and you know what they are like.”

The inhabitants of the farm – Aunt Ada, the Starkadders (Judith, Amos, Seth, Reuben and Elfine) and assorted workers – are all aware of a wrong done to her father in the past, and thus feel obligated to welcome Flora to their home. Each of the farm’s inhabitants has some kind of emotional problem, and the farm is badly run. Flora sets out to solve their problems, with the aid of her handbook, The Higher Common Sense. She introduces some of her relatives to professionals who can help them; she teaches them how to act in a modern and socially appropriate way, and enables romantic relationships (including her own) to form.

Gibbons’ writing is very relaxed and cheeky; she captures each situation and character perfectly, with humour and insight. She gives characters lines such as, “She has a brittle, hare-like quality…”, which is apparently a good thing.

With comments such as, “I propose to send a letter to the relatives I have mentioned…asking them if they are willing to give me a home in exchange for my beautiful eyes and a hundred pounds a year”, and “…I think we ought to dine out – don’t you? – to celebrate the inaugurations of my career as a parasite”, the story’s heroine initially seems self-centred and spoiled, but as the novel unfolds, it becomes apparent that she is a very good person indeed.

An amusing, easy read that will have you smiling, if not laughing, and deserving of 4 out of 5 stars.


2 thoughts on “Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons

  1. inspirationalreads June 30, 2013 / 7:59 pm

    I haven’t read it, but I did see the lovely show with Kate Beckinsale, and I laughed at the Reuben and Seth comment then and again reading your quote 🙂

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