Cold Comfort Farm

Thoughts  by Stella Gibbons, Penguin 2006 (orig 1932), 233 pages

Challenge: Classics Club Spin for April
Genre: Satire? “Comic novel”
Type/Source: Tradeback/Library
 Why I read this now: Spin and library had a copy – woo hoo!

MOTIVATION for READING: I originally had this on my Club 50 because it was a book I saw on many people’s done-read list and I wanted to get in on that.

“He was a tree-trunk; a toad on a stone; a pie-thatched owl on a bough.”

WHAT’s it ABOUT: Supposedly, it makes fun of the classic style of British farm novels? I have not read any British farm novels so I can’t comment to that.

Poor orphaned Flora finds out that her inheritance will not be quite adequate to live on so she decides to crash on relatives who will have her. They all acquiesce to the idea but she can’t go to them all, right? so she picks the one that will most benefit from her influence:  Cold Comfort Farm. She arranges marriages, lets the bull get some sunshine, finds servants to wash her curtains, gets one cousin to ‘realize his ambition’ which allows another cousin to realize a dream. One cousin is discovered as Star Material for Hollywood talkies and another discovers the health benefits of travel. It’s quite crazy and madcap and all arranged by Flora’s capable hands.

All that and she somehow herself is proposed to; she gets to fly off to live happily ever after.

“Henceforth her life would be one of exquisite sunny natural content.”

WHAT’s GOOD: I did find it funny. Not laugh out loud joke funny but amusing. I loved that every mode of transportation and all mediums for communication are utilized.

What’s NOT so good: Well, it’s an old book set in another time, so it has a few crass mentions of ‘other’ that are stereotypical and insensitive but only a couple. It really isn’t kind to women, either, tbh. And by that, I mean poor women.

I did scratch my head a few times in mild bewilderment and some questions never get answered. Do we really want to know what Aunt Ada Doom saw in the woodshed? No, no we do not. And what exactly did they do to Flora’s father that they had to accept penance of taking in Flora? And who was Adam?  I never did figure out who Adam was but shrug. No matter.

[Updated to add:   I remembered to read the Introduction by Lynne Truss who explains and admires this work in terrific prose. So, anything I didn’t get was because I can be obtuse – ha! The Intro is fab. Be sure to read it; get THIS edition with the cow on the cover so you don’t miss it. And, if you’re like me – you’ll read it after so nothing is spoiled. I would never read an Intro before a book. Why oh why do they want me to read it first?!]

FINAL THOUGHTS: I kind of wish I had a Flora Poste to interfere in my life… She surely would have some sensible advice to provide.

RATING: Five slices of apple pie.

“What they was having themselves proved to be apple tart and vegetables, so Flora did quite well.”




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27 thoughts on “Cold Comfort Farm

    1. I get it! You could always pick it up if you see it and read a page or two; see if any passages spark an interest. And if not, skip it! I have seen quite a few reviews by readers I trust who expressed … let’s say, “not a fan”. 🙂

  1. Wait, so have you seen the movie? I saw the movie before I read the book, and it is one of my all-time favorites. It has a crazy cast — Kate Beckinsale AND Stephen Fry AND Ian McKellan AND Rufus Sewell, and they are all on the absolute top of their game. It’s terrific. Much recommended if you ever get a chance.

  2. I always think of the movie when I hear this one. I have never read it but I would think a farm novel is pretty similar to Jane Austen, don’t you think?

    1. I made the hub look to see if we could get the movie and we watched the trailer. I never heard of it before! And it cost money – I expected to be free on Prime, but alas, NO. And D was NOT up for watching it. (We have one of the RDJ Sherlock flicks on now…)

  3. I also thought this book was pretty funny even though, like you, I was unfamiliar with the kinds of novels Gibbon was making fun of. From what I understand (from Simon at Stuck in a Book), Mary Webb was one of those novelists that she was sending up.

    I haven’t seen the movie, but I would like to. I’ll bet it is also a lot of fun.

  4. I’ve heard many mixed things about this book – I think I might see if my library has it and give it a try. It definitely sucks when a book ends and not everything is wrapped up!

    1. Oh no! It wraps up fine! it just has a few odd things tossed in that bugged me but it was side stuff and totally part of a joke I didn’t get most likely.

  5. I did not know there was an entire genre called British Farm Novels. Sounds…not my cup of tea. I did read the comments though and that movie has some great actors!

    1. Oh yes, now that I have read the Intro, I can speak more smart about it. Ahem. British ‘rural novels’ and she made fun of them out right. parody, etc. Apparently, they could be MOST GHASTLY.

  6. I’ve got to put in a good word for the movie. SO EXCELLENT. And parts of it ARE laugh-out loud funny, everyone does a wonderful job overacting.

    I’ve never read the book thought! Might be time to fix that oversight.

  7. This is super old! I read it long ago, like maybe when I was 15 or so. I don’t recall its content at all though.

  8. I didn’t get the point of this book at all. I obviously failed to connect so completely, I didn’t even bother to write about it on my blog! But now I’ve heard about the movie, with a fab cast that everyone seems to be raving about….I might not give up on this forever after all 🙂

    1. I watched the movie over the weekend and it was fun – glad I watched it close to the time I read it. BUT, if you didn’t really get the book, I don’t think the movie will bowl you over, either.

  9. I saw the movie adaptation of this years ago and adored it. When I read the book just a couple of years ago, I could still see those characters from the movie and realized what a great adaptation it was. Loved the book, too!

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