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West Sussex - Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons

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WEST SUSSEX
 
Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons
 
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. A hilarious and ruthless parody of rural melodramas and purple prose, Cold Comfort Farm is one of the best-loved comic novels of all time.
 
 
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A wonderfully funny book containing Aunt Ada Doom's immortal words 'I saw something nasty in the woodshed.' :D 

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Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons

 

The ‘blurb’

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. A hilarious and ruthless parody of rural melodramas and purple prose, Cold Comfort Farm is one of the best-loved comic novels of all time.

 

Cold Comfort Farm is a satire on novels by the likes of and Mary Webb, whom I haven’t read before, (although I have had Precious Bane recommended to me) and Thomas Hardy, whom I have (and have loved!).

 

Flora Poste loses her parents to an outbreak of influenza and is left just “£100 a year and no property”.

 

Against the advice of her friend Mrs Smiling, Flora writes to her relatives certain that someone will take her in.  She receives a reply from the Starkadders – a farming family from Sussex – who offer her a place with them at Cold Comfort Farm as atonement for a wrong against Flora’s father.  Here she finds a weird selection of relatives – from the revered and controlling Aunt Ada Doom who seldom leaves her bedroom to depressive cousin Judith, Mrs Beetle the sensible and grounded cleaner, Judith’s reflective daughter Elfine and various other bizarre family members – each with his or her own problem which needs solving.   So Flora resolves that this is what she’ll do for them: she’ll sort out the farm… and the family members too.  But take care, Flora – for there is something nasty in the woodshed!

 

This book has been on my wish list for a long time, but it was this Challenge that made me finally pick it up – and I’m glad I did – it was a great book with such an array of different characters which make for great reading.  I was very amused by the language and dialect in the book – a lot of it invented by Gibbons (who couldn’t love words like clettering and mollocking?!  :D  ) and I wish I’d read it sooner.   :)  Each time I picked it up I heard The Divine Comedy’s song, “Something for the Weekend”!  :giggle2: Very enjoyable.

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Great review, Janet! It sounds interesting (though I'm not sure if I could follow the accents).

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Brilliant Janet .. so glad you enjoyed it :) Great review .. sums it up perfectly. The short Christmas story is very funny too.

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Thanks. :)

 

I will try Christmas at CCF at Christmastime if I remember!  :D  Is there another sequel?

 

ETA:  I found it - Conference at Cold Comfort Farm.  :)

Edited by Janet

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Yes .. that's one for the list :D Though the reviews aren't great and the general concensus on Amazon is 'don't go there' :(

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Copied from my blog thread:

 

Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons *****

I first read Cold Comfort Farm about 12 years ago, but came round to it again as it was on the English Counties Challenge list. Then I had rated it as a 5-star read, and I have to admit that, a couple of chapters in, I was beginning to wonder why. For various reasons, I wasn't able to get a good run at the book, forced to pick it off a few pages at a time (usually at bedtime), and another couple of chapters on I was beginning to doubt my sanity that first time, thinking that this was going the way of most 'humorous' books in my ratings, i.e. bouncing round near the bottom. With a book group deadline looming, I suspended further efforts, and got stuck into that choice. Then, a deep breath, an evening cleared: surely this couldn't be so bad if I rated it so highly last time?

 

Well, no it couldn't, and I read the rest of the book (over half) in one sitting, smiling my way through most of it, and even, on occasions, laughing out loud (the scene of The Counting was pure magic). Which all goes to show how much one's enjoyment of a book can depend on context, mood, and any number of other factors. But above all else, a book has got to have a chance to breathe, and the reader has got to have a chance to immerse him or herself. Reading a book a few pages at a time is no way to treat the animal, and I had been desperately unfair to both the author and her book in trying to do so.

 

Cold Comfort Farm was written as a send-up of rural dramas by the likes of Mary Webb, Thomas Hardy, DH Lawrence etc, often laced as they are with tragedy and doom ridden atmospherics. Thoroughly practical, modern, metropolitan, but pauperised, Flora Poste goes off to live with her cousins, the extensive, agricultural and deeply conservative Starkadders. The impact is initially fairly gentle, but then Flora starts to get to work, and the feathers start to fly, especially when the family matriarch, Great-Aunt Ada Doom, normally hidden away in her room, starts to get wind of what Flora is up to....

 

Even if one hasn't read any of the (affectionately) lampooned authors, there is much to enjoy. I have to admit that I thought that some of the jokes were a bit obvious to start with, and that there was a danger that the whole book would slide into a slough of cliche and stereotypes, especially the Starkadders themselves, whose characters initially teetered on the edge of Little Britain nonsense (sorry, but for me it was). But, having set it up to look this way, the author rapidly veered away from these dangerous rocks, as Flora's efforts started to reveal previously hidden strengths in the family and they turned into characters one cared for rather than laughed at. And that was the point at which I actually started to laugh - and any book that manages that with me is pretty exceptional!

Edited by willoyd

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I finished Cold Comfort Farm recently, and it was actually the second time I've read the book.  Bizarrely, both times the same thing happened - I got half way through, was really enjoying it, but then put it aside and went off and read other books, then came back to it a few months later!  I've no idea why, but I just needed a break from it after reading the first half of the book. :lol:

 

My first encounter with it, was actually the BBC adaptation of it back in the mid 1990s.  I've only seen it twice, I think, but it had a really strong impression on me, so when I've been reading the book, all I can picture is the actors in my head, and I know I'm constantly trying to compare the television version with the book.  This doesn't usually happen with me, as I'm very good at viewing different formats as different entities, but for some reason, I just can't do that with this book.  Despite that, I love them both.  I chuckle away while reading, and I fall in love with Gibbons writing.  It's just feels like a warm hug to me.  I have a fondness for stories set between the wars, and I love the quirkiness of it, all the while with its intention to parody the romanticised rural life novels of the period.

 

I love Flora as the heroine of the novel, bringing her common sense, best foot forward sensibility to the farm and the Starkadder family.  While the family members are quite caricatured a times, I still love reading about them, from the wonderful domineering matriarch Aunt Ada Doom, to the talkies obsessed Seth and the almost ephemeral Elfine.

 

I have read some other Gibbons work, but I would like to read more.  Despite this being a re-read, I'm very glad to find it on the challenge list, as it was a very welcome return to a book I've enjoyed before.

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I should re-read this, I have a copy of the sequel and cannot remember who all the characters are.

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