Cold Comfort Farm

by Stella Gibbons
First sentence: “The education bestowed on Flora Poste by her parents had been expensive, athletic and prolonged; and when they died within a few weeks of one another during the annual epidemic of the influenza or Spanish Plague which occurred in her twentieth year, she was discovered to possess every art and grace save that of earning her own living.”
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Content: It’s a bit early-20th-century with the language and the pacing. And there’s some illusions to sex. But, really, if you think you can manage, go for it. It’s in the adult section of the bookstore.

This is one of those classic books that somehow I missed growing up. I don’t know why. I kind of knew it existed: knew there was a movie, knew that it was a book… but not enough to really know anything about it. So I went into this one blind, and the edition I got (pictured above) didn’t help me much, going in: it looks like it’ll be a bit of a silly book, with some weird characters.

And that’s pretty much accurate.

Flora is, as the first sentence indicates, unable to support herself, being one of those “educated” women (it is 1932, after all; I have no reason to believe this wasn’t meant to be contemporary). So, she decides, with her 100 pounds a year, to take advantage of hospitality of her relatives, writing them to see if they’ll house her. The most interesting letter she got was from Cold Comfort Farm, which said that they had once done her father a great wrong, and that they are not like “other folk”. Of course Flora finds this intriguing. And so, she’s off to Cold Comfort Farm to see what mysteries await her.

There have always been Starkadders at Cold Comfort Farm, from the dawn of time (or at least since they came into possession of it), and because of the iron fist of Aunt Ada Doom, they are a weird bunch. The whole book is Flora sticking her nose into everyone else’s problems to fix them, thereby making Cold Comfort Farm a happier place.

And it’s a hilarious ride. (Maybe not laugh-out-loud funny, but definitely amusing.) I adored the characters: the rogue Seth, the grumpy Reuben, the over-religious Amos, the depressed Judith, the hippie (she’s ahead of her time) Elfine… there’s just so much to enjoy here. My favorite was Mr. Mybug, who was obsessed with sex, mostly because he was SO ridiculous. The only thing that I felt was left hanging was the Thing that Aunt Ada saw in the shed that made her SO crazy (I wanted to know, dangit!), but other than that, this was an absolute delight.

I’m so glad I finally read it. (Now to watch the movie!)

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