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Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons

Cold Comfort Farm (original 1932; edition 2006)

by Stella Gibbons (Author), Lynne Truss (Introduction)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
3,765None1,379 (4.04)349
Title:Cold Comfort Farm
Authors:Stella Gibbons (Author)
Other authors:Lynne Truss (Introduction)
Info:Penguin Classics (2006), Edition: Reprint, Paperback, 256 pages
Collections:Finished, Your library, E-book
Tags:english, fiction, 2012

Work details

Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons (1932)

1001 (49) 1001 books (42) 1930s (53) 20th century (94) 20th century literature (17) British (109) British fiction (24) British literature (62) classic (81) classic fiction (21) classics (44) comedy (43) England (111) English (34) English literature (48) family (30) farm (24) favorite (21) fiction (716) Folio Society (62) funny (17) humor (342) literature (49) novel (113) parody (58) read (60) satire (133) to-read (76) UK (24) unread (31)
  1. 102
    Emma by Jane Austen (ncgraham)
    ncgraham: Flora is very clearly modeled on Emma.
  2. 71
    Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen (ncgraham)
    ncgraham: Another brilliant parody.
  3. 30
    Big Fish: A Novel of Mythic Proportions by Daniel Wallace (msouliere)
  4. 20
    Mapp and Lucia by E. F. Benson (Michael.Rimmer)
  5. 20
    The Straight and Narrow Path by Honor Tracy (rebeccanyc)
    rebeccanyc: Another satire, this time of the Irish countryside, the English in Ireland, and the Catholic church.
  6. 53
    A Room with a View by E. M. Forster (upster)
    upster: It's refreshing and fun
  7. 10
    Who was Changed and Who was Dead by Barbara Comyns (laytonwoman3rd)
  8. 10
    The Grand Sophy by Georgette Heyer (Bjace)
    Bjace: While it's not in the same genre, the books are similiar. Both Sophy and Flora Post are Miss Fix-its, whose practical, problem-solving approach to life is a contrast to the silliness of their relatives. Also, both are delightful reads in different ways.
  9. 01
    My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell (MyriadBooks)
  10. 03
    The Rainbow by D. H. Lawrence (thorold)
    thorold: The Rainbow is a great novel that's well worth reading for its own sake, but it's also the supreme example of the over-portentous way of writing about the countryside that makes the parody in Cold Comfort Farm so hilarious.

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» See also 349 mentions

English (124)  Spanish (5)  Danish (1)  Swedish (1)  All languages (131)
Showing 1-5 of 124 (next | show all)
What a shame that we don’t all have a “Flora” in our lives to tidy up for us. This parody of the helpless female orphan is so clever and entertaining that it was great fun to read and I know it’s one that I will re-read with as much enjoyment as I did the first time. ( )
  mlbelize | Jan 27, 2014 |
Cold Comfort Farm has stood the wear of time well, and can still be read with pleasure, and while it's humour may no longer be hilarious (for some it may still be), it is midly and wryly funny. This is quite remarkable, and shows the intrinsic quality of writing. The style of writing is somewhat similar to that of Rosamond Lehmann, whose Invitation to the waltz touches on some similar themes, such as "life in the countryside". Incidentally, both books were published in the year 1932.

While just two decades earlier, people were all excited about the novelty of automobiles, Stella Gibbons pokes mild fun at the popularity of aviation, suggestion planes might soon be as common as a brougham or taxi, as characters in the book come and take off. The image of the Flora's cousin Charles flying in from London, landing in a meadow will nicely tune your mind to the setting of the novel.

A bit more difficult for contemporary readers to see is the way in which Cold Comfort Farm parodies 'rural family sagas' -- that is to say the type of novels written about and set in the countryside, featuring "authentic" characters speaking a strong rural vernacular, incestuous relationships, and broody and dark descriptions of nature and the countryside. Such writing had its literary predecessors in novels such as Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë, and the novels of Thomas Hardy and the young D.H. Lawrence. Unfamiliarity with the parodied genre is no problem, because to drive her point home Gibbons marked such passages with a triple asterisk, for example, the following description of Amos Starkadder:

***His huge body, rude as a wind-tortured thorn, was printed darkly against the thin mild flame of the dclining winter sun that throbbed like a sallow lemon on the westering lip of Mockuncle Hill, and sent its pale, sharp rays into the kitchen through the open door. The brittle air, on which the fans of the trees were etched like aging skeletons, seemed thronged by the bright, invisible ghosts of a million dead summers. The cold beat in glassy waves against the eyelids of anybody who happened to be out in it. High up, a few chalky clouds doubtfully wavered in the pale sky that curved over against the rim of the Downs like a vast inverted pot-de-chambre. Huddled in the hollow, like an exhausted brute, the frosted roofs of Howling, crisp and purple as broccoli leaves, were like beasts about to spring.

Cold Comfort Farm has a rather large number of characters, mainly the various family members of the Starkadders, two farm hands, and a fairly large number of characters around them, in the nearby village.

Possible, but not mentioned, as a result of the Great Depression, Flora Poste's allowance dwindles to a mere 100 Pounds a year, and she looks for family members who can take her in. While she is rebuffed by most, old Aunt Ada Doom feels under obligation to do Flora a good turn in return for a wrong which is never disclosed, done to her father. Throughout the novel, the Starkadders and their farm hands keep referring to Flora never by her first name but always addressing her as Robert Poste's child.

Upon her arrival, Flora finds the old farmhouse literally stuck in the mud. Everything is dirty, old, decrepit or out-of-date. Flora, of course, makes it her mission to clear things up. The backwardness of life on the farm is perhaps best symbolized by the miserable life of the farm's bull Big Business, permanently locked up and in the dark in the barn. Flora sets him free by releasing the miserable animal into the meadow.

Once Flora has settled upon her mission, the plot takes off like a fly wheel, and in the course of a remarkably short time, Flora changes the age-old lifestyle of the family members for ever.Unscrupulously she breaks up relationships and goes about changing the farm folk's way of life. Typically, that is achieved by modernization and getting people off the farm and out of the countryside. Seth Starkadder gets into the film business, off to Hollywood, Amos Starkadder, hellfire preacher, makes it to the Bible Belt to preach in the US, Elfine, the Ariel-like beauty, is writhed out of her destined marriage with Urk and betrothed to the local squire, as Flora spends her annual allowance of 100 Pounds to dress Elfine up for a coming-out ball in the countryside. The most spectacular conversion is the transformation old Aunt Ada Doom from a brooding, evil matriarch into a slick, cosmopolitan granny, off to have the time-of-her-life in Paris. When Flora is done, mission accomplished in about three months, she returns to London. ( )
  edwinbcn | Dec 31, 2013 |
The best send-up of Wuthering Heights and Thomas Hardy ever done. Thank you, Stella, Read at least three times. ( )
  DinadansFriend | Dec 10, 2013 |
This is supposed to be a very funny parody of mournful 19th century rural novels (Hardy, I suppose) but have not yet read it.
  antiquary | Nov 13, 2013 |
Comedy is hard work. Any comedian can tell you that. But comedy fiction writing is an art only the truly talented should attempt.
And from the majority reaction of our group, Stella Gibbons falls within this talent pool.

There were some real belly laughs coming from some of us. In fact, Ann believes that everyone should have a copy of this book to just open up and read any page simply to lighten up your life.

The imagery and language we found brilliant. It was mentioned that quite often, the language used in classic fiction can be difficult to read and take in. Not so here, Gibbons did a masterful job of personification and those of us who took the most delight in this parody of the classic English novel felt her characters to be the real gems of this book.
All the Stackadders on Cold Comfort Farm often fell into madness of the most hilarious kind, but thanks to Flora and her Mary Poppins’ style ability, jollied them out of it and soon set everything straight with a toss of her pretty little head.

Light hearted fun at its best, although there were a few of us who found little to laugh at. Both Denise and Cathy doubted the brilliance of this novel. Found Flora a too good, control freak with many other characters coming and going from what seemed nowhere.
Elenor was not sure what to make of this novel and even unsure that it was meant as a parody.
Taken seriously or not, this little novel scored high with us. The only consensual negative by its fans was the extreme disappointment of never knowing what Mrs Stackadder saw in the woodshed … how to live with such ‘cold comfort’?
  DaptoLibrary | Nov 3, 2013 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Stella Gibbonsprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Chast, RozIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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Let other pens dwell on guilt and misery -- Mansfield Park.
To Allan and Ina
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The education bestowed upon 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 influenza or Spanish Plague which occured in her twentieth year, she was discovered to possess every art and grace save that of earning her own living.
"I saw something nasty in the woodshed!"
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0143039598, Paperback)

Stella Gibbons' novel is a wickedly funny portrait of British rural life in the 1930s. Flora, a recently orphaned socialite, moves in with her country relatives, the gloomy Starkadders of Cold Comfort Farm.

A Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition with French flaps, rough front, and luxurious packaging
Features an introduction from Lynne Truss and cover illustrations by Roz Chast

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:59:13 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

When a well-educated young socialite in 1930s England is left orphaned and unable to support herself at age twenty-two, she moves in with her eccentric relatives on their farm.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 5 descriptions

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Penguin Australia

Five editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0143039598, 0141441593, 0140448500, 0141045485, 0241951518

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