Skip to main content

Review: Cold Comfort Farm, by Stella Gibbons


Pages: 233
Original date of publication: 1932
My edition: 2006 (Penguin)
Why I decided to read: It’s on the list of 1001 books to read before you die
How I acquired my copy: Waterstone’s, Piccadilly, London, September 2011


A tongue-in-cheek satire, Cold Comfort Farm is a novel about a young woman named Flora Poste, who goes to live with her cousins, the Starkadder family, on their farm in Sussex. It’s a cast of characters, to be sure: Judith and Amos, and their children, Seth, Reuben, and Elfine; and a host of others, including the reclusive Aunt Ada Doom, who hasn’t left her room in 20 years because she saw something nasty in the woodshed when she was a child. One by one, Flora takes on each member of the family, acting as a sort of fairy godmother, especially to Elfine.

It’s a funny novel, but not overtly so. For example, I loved the part where Mr Mybug (not really his name, but no matter) regales Flora with his theory about Branwell Bronte being the author of Wuthering Heights. In this way Stella Gibbons parodies the classic Victorian novels, as well as many of the women’s novels of the 1930s (many of which were reprinted by Virago Modern Classics, so I kind of have a point of reference). As with most satirical novels, it’s over the top, but so over the top that it becomes unbelievable. But it’s an odd book, nonetheless, especially since Gibbons set it sometime in the future (from 1932). But we don’t know exactly what year it’s supposed to be, so the events in this novel take place in a kind of vacuum. It’s bizarre, but bizarre in a good way!

Comments

Marg said…
I have heard lots of good things about this book. I have it out of the library to read soon.

Popular posts from this blog

Review: Wuthering Heights, by Emily Bronte

Pages: 315 Original date of publication: 1847 My edition: 1981 (Bantam Classics) Why I decided to read: Re-read; first read summer 2002 How I acquired my copy: Barnes and Noble, summer 2002 I first read this in 2002, when I did an internship in Chicago and went on a classics reading kick that summer, and this book was one of them ( Vanity Fair and Bleak House were two of the “loose baggy monsters” I read that summer). Although I’d read Charlotte’s Jane Eyre several times in school, Wuthering Heights was, for some reason, never on any of the syllabi for any of the classes I took (and English was my major!). Wuthering Heights is a complicated novel, and it probably says a lot about Emily Bronte herself. The novel is melodramatic at times, and it contains two narrators: an old former family servant and a near neighbor, neither of whom is an observant or reliable narrator (at the beginning of the book, Mr. Lockwood thinks that a pile of dead rabbits is a cat). Emily Bronte had a w

Read in 2017

January: 1. London: the Novel, by Edward Rutherfurd 2. Notes from a Small Island, by Bill Bryson 3. A Very English Scandal, by John Preston 4. Imagined London, by Anna Quindlen 5. The Black Dahlia, by James Ellroy 6. In Cold Blood, by Truman Capote February 1. Sense and Sensibility, by Jane Austen 2. The Girls of Slender Means, by Muriel Spark 3. Patience, by John Coates 4. Into the Whirlwind, by Eugenia Ginzburg 5. The Turn of the Screw, by Henry James 6. Few Eggs and No Oranges, by Vere Hodgson 7. Vittoria Cottage, by DE Stevenson March: 1. The Exiles Return, by Elizabeth de Waal 2. Northanger Abbey, by Jane Austen 3. The Death of the Heart, by Elizabeth Bowen 4. The Buccaneers, by Edith Wharton 5. The Death of the Heart, by Elizabeth Bowen 6. White Teeth, by Zadie Smith April: 1. The Heat of the Day, by Elizabeth Bowen 2. The Two Mrs. Abbotts, by DE Stevenson 3. The Road to Little Dribbling, by Bill Bryson May: 1. London War Notes, by Mollie Panter-Dow

Review: The Persephone Book of Short Stories

Pages: 473 Original date of publication: 1909-1986 My copy: 2012 (Persephone) Why I decided to read: How I acquired my copy: Persephone subscription, January 2013 The Persephone Book of Short Stories is a collection of thirty short stories—some that have been previously published in other Persephone books (crowd pleasers such as Minnie Panter-Downes’s “Good Evening, Mrs Craven” and Irene Nemirovsky’s “Dimanche”)—some that have been published in the Persephone Post , and others that appear here for the first time. The earliest story in the collection, Susan Glaspell’s“A to Z,” was published in 1909 and the last, Georgina Hammick’s “A Few Cases in the Day Case Unit,” in 1986. My favorite story in the collection is the first: Susan Glaspell’s “A to Z,’ in which a young college graduate gets a job as a dictionary copyist at a publisher’s office. She strikes up a friendship with a young man at the office; the irony of the story being that while these characters’ bread