Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Cold Comfort Farm, by Stella Gibbons

Cold Comfort Farm was on my list of books to read for 10 years before Novel Conversations chose it and I finally actually read Gibbons' parody of rural English novels. The heroine of the book is Flora Poste, a young woman whose parents have died and left her with no resources. Although her friend Mrs. Smiling encourages her to get a job (gasp!), Flora instead writes to every relative she can unearth asking if she can stay with them. The only takers are the Starkadder family of Cold Comfort Farm in Sussex, who feel indebted to her because of some wrong done to her father in the past.

She arrives at Cold Comfort Farm to find a bizarre collection of relatives, all of whom she decides she can help to escape the farm or their problems, leaving the farm to the one cousin who really wants to be a farmer. She manipulates the fire-and-brimstone preacher to leave the farm to spread the word in a Ford truck. She makes sure the lovely and fey cousin can marry the son of the local landowner rather than being forced to wed the filthy Urk. She arranges for the libidinous and movie-loving Seth to be discovered by a Hollywood producer. And on and on.

At times, even without intimate familiarity with the books being parodied, Cold Comfort Farm is amusing. But the humor is extremely broad, the plot and characters unbelievable, and the depiction of rural characters somewhat offensive--meaning Cold Comfort Farm wears thing very quickly.

No one at our book group meeting last night really liked the book, although some thought it was funnier than others did (I think the highest grade it got was a C+). While the Brits still include it on Top 100 lists, Broomfielders are less impressed.

Favorite passages:
Flora sighed. It was curious that persons who lived what the novelists called a rich emotional life always seemed to be a bit slow on the uptake.

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