Cold Comfort Farm
This month we read Cold Comfort Farm By Stella Gibbons, was this month’s book. We needed something a bit lighter in subject matter. I thought a spoof on the D.H. Lawrence, Bronte Sisters, Jane Austen, style genre might be fun. And to some extent it was lots of fun.As the story goes, Flora Poste, a 19 year old socialite, is orphaned by her parents in the start of the book. In true fashion of this style of book. It is always about an orphan. Just ask Jane Eyre. Anyway, Flora, much like the usual heroines of this style of book, is a walking oxymoron. in this particular case, when her parents died she was too lazy to get a job and stay in London with her dear friend. Too lazy to find anything to do with herself for that matter…. But somehow not too lazy to embark on the quest to fix the lives of some distant relatives. You see, instead of finding a carreer and a life course for her lazy self, she wrote to some distant family in Sussex, and they of course agreed to take her in. Why? Because a wrong was once done by them to her deceased father. They tell her at Cold Comfort Farm, where there have always been Starkadders (which is their last name,) she has some rights as a result of this old wrong they had done to her father. And so she journeys to the dreary Sussex in the deep dark hell of the country side.
She settles in to discover a house in dark turmoil. Her Aunt Judith, is a depressive, her cousin Seth and his name is a running joke all on it’s own, is a womanizer secretly in love with what he calls “the talkies.” He is unable to stop stupping young women, they seem to throw themselves at him….. Adam, who loves to “cletter” dishes with a thorny twig, Hapless free spirit Elfine, who wants to do nothing but write poetry and marry some dude named Hawk-Monitor. And of course Uncle Amos, who is highly religious and insists there will be no butter in hell. He is the leading preacher at The Church of The Quivering Brethren….. And of course great aunt Ada Doom, who saw something narsty in the woodshed. Flora, single handedly digs in and gets to work fixing their lives and the farm. Hooks Judith up with a shrink, puts Elfine in a dress and teaches her about common sense finally takes her to the Hawk-Monitor ball so she can marry her beloved, in the process saving her from a bad match she doesn’t want. Flora hooks Judith, up with a shrink and the concept of a holiday abroad. Flora convinces Amos, to take his quicering preaching out on the road as a traveling preacher so Urk, can take over the farm which is made up of a bull named Big Business and several cows some of whom are named Hopeless, feckless, and Aimless. She gets Adam, a little mop for dish clettering, and ruins Ada Doom’s death grip on all of them forcing them to stay at the farm so she doesn’t go insane because she saw something nasty in the woodshed….
The book culminates in Elfine’s wedding, Judith is with a shrink and Ada, is headed by plane for a visit to Paris, Urk, has the farm, Elfine is moving from Cold Comfort to Hautecouture farm to live with her husband the Hawk-Monitor guy… Adam and the tragically named cows will go with her. And finally Flora, flies off with her friend who she now plans to marry. Why she couldn’t have just done that to begin with I will never know.
It was exactly as I hoped, a ridiculous tale and at times absolutely hilarious. It had little depth and truly was a brilliant mockery of an age long past. Which brings me to some personal confusion…. Evidently the book written in the 30s was intended to be set in what Stella Gibbons, a writer of the early 30s, believed the future would be like. I didn’t see much on that futuristic front. Except at one point Flora, is speaking on the phone and the person on the other end says he has to flip on his TV to see her while he speaks to her. Imagine that….. Gibbons, predicted something not entirely unlike Zoom in the early 30s.
Some of the accents were tough to read, because they are so foreign to an american reader and it was so much garbled britlish. But I really enjoyed reading it and had a few good laughs. I was a bit disapointed we never found out what Ada Doom saw in the woodshed…. Nor did we learn what Flora’s rights were, just that they had something to do with a goat that might have lived and might have died. But that was sort of the big joke of the whole novel. It was a lot of fun. And yes this is full of spoilers, still there is much that remains unspoiled also. I highly recommend this book…. Either because it was incredibly good…. Or because I am traumatized because I saw something narsty in the woodshed. Your guess on that point is as good as mine.