Saturday, April 3, 2010

Review of the Day: Cold Comfort Farm

I never write in books. Underlining, highlighting, and marginalia are not for me. I like my books to be straight of spine and clean of page. So what am I to do with Cold Comfort Farm that makes me itch to underline? There is a funny, quotable, commit-to-memory-in-case-of-long-imprisonment passage on every page.

Stella Gibbons published Cold Comfort Farm, her first novel, in 1932, as a satire of the moulderingly rural romantic novels of Thomas Hardy, D. H. Lawrence, and others. The set up is pitch perfect: Newly orphaned Flora Poste is taken in by distant relatives to live at their grim, decrepit Sussex farm, where morbid Judith lurks in shawls, Amos seethes with religious fury, oversexed cousin Seth lounges half naked, and crazy Aunt Ada Doom won’t leave her room because she “saw something nasty in the woodshed” 68 years ago.

Instead of wallowing in the gloom like some Brönte heroine, Flora takes the situation in hand. Starting with having the curtains washed, she moves on to fixing everyone’s problems with dispatch. She finds careers for the under-employed, spouses for the lovelorn, care for the ill, and a new lease on life for Aunt Ada. Even the cows are better off for Flora’s attentions.

What makes the book so spectacular is that it is funny. Flora’s spot-on commentary about everything from intellectual women gone “all queer about the shoes and coiffure,” to Japanese art films, to rural fecundity is just dead clever.

I am going to have to buy a second copy of Cold Comfort Farm so that I can have one to sit and look pretty on my shelf and another that I can underline to my heart’s content.


(If you would like your review listed here, please leave a comment with a link and I will add it.)


  1. I have heard this is a good one and now to read your review I am looking forward to reading it more. I will at some point this is on one of my read before die challenge list...perhap a summer read.

  2. This is funny, I was reading this review thinking 'this sound familiar' and the I remember they made a TV drama from it with Kate Beckinsale about 15 years ago and I remember finding it realy funny. Will have to add this now, thanks.

  3. Psmith -- This is one of those books that I wish I had read years ago so that I could reread it. :)

    Jessica -- Yes, the movie version is hilarious and almost just like the book. The only think better about the book is that it puts into very funny words what the movie shows in images.

  4. This one is on my list, but I'm thinking I should read some Hardy and Lawrence first?

  5. Loved your review. This one is going on my ever-growing TBR list!

    Good idea about having two copies!

  6. I read Cold Comfort Farm about 30 years ago and it's still memorable. Hilarious. I especially loved The Church of the Quivering Brethren.

  7. Charley -- I think it is funny even without having slogged your way through Hardy or Lawrence. Don't get me wrong, I like Hardy and Lawrence, but they can be heavy sledding.

    Irene -- In fact, now I need to get two MORE copies, because I just gave this copy to my sister. :)

  8. I was handed this book by my 8th grade Language Arts teacher and I tried to read it, but couldn't get into it. I wonder if I'd enjoy it now, as an adult reader.

  9. Wow! I really want to read this now!

    I went through a phase where I NEEDED to write in my books. It was like a compulsion - I needed to put notes in the margins and underline and draw arrows across the pages. I haven't done it in years though. But I know which books I can lend to friends and which ones would make them think I was a little crazy. :)

  10. I absolutely loved this book. I must admit that I cannot deface my books either, so this one must have really hit a nerve for you to write in it.

  11. I'm in the Clean Book category, too. This kind of book is what sticky tabs are for! It's been lurking at the edge of the TBR list for a while but is now solidly on.

  12. I read and enjoyed this very much earlier this year.
    I used to hate marks on books but I've gotten over it in the past year and now list quotes I think are interesting on one of the back pages. It leaves the text clean but helps enormously when I want to blog and makes it easy to go back and find quotes later. I feel it personalizes my library.


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