Synopsis: 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.
Title: Cold Comfort Farm
Author: Stella Gibbons
Publisher: Penguin Classics
Cold Comfort Farm is one of those books that I know I should love; it’s cleverly written, and apparently an act of literary genius. But, no matter how smart you’re trying to be, if I can’t stay awake whilst reading the story, I’m never going to love it.
Gibbons writes a witty, satirical ode to the likes of D.H. Lawrence, Thomas Hardy, and Jane Austen and I did chuckle a number of times throughout the novel.
“The audience had run to beards and magenta shirts and original ways of arranging its neckwear… it had sat through a film of Japanese life called ‘Yes’ made by a Norwegian film company in 1915 with Japanese actors, which lasted an hour and three-quarters and contained twelve close-ups of waterlilies lying perfectly still on a scummy pond and four suicides, all done extremely slowly.”
Despite this, I really struggled with this book, even towards the end when I found it somewhat easier to read, it was missing that spark for me; it was simply too fortuitous and predictable. Flora just so happens to know all the right people, and everything seems to go to plan. To be honest, I just got bored of reading what I knew would happen by page 20.
Maybe this is the point; maybe the novels predictability is part of the satire. But when you add the formulaic nature of the book to the extraordinarily long sentences and depictions of the farm, it can become quite tedious. Hence the incredible naps I took whilst reading this.
I’m still not 100% sure how I feel about Cold Comfort Farm, I feel it’s probably something everyone should read at least one, even if it’s just to have an opinion on it. I am, therefore, unlikely to read it again.