Friday, January 30, 2009

Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons

Decades - 1930
Herd Cats Challenge
Somehow I thought this would be a folksy tale set in the rural South with soft humor, bucolic characters and a nice message. Why? Who knows? It was recommended by Oprah so that should have warned me. You can imagine my surprise when the story opens with a pampered young lady in London whose parents have just died leaving her a paltry sum of 100 £ a year to live on.
From Library Journal
"In Gibbons's classic tale, first published in 1932, a resourceful young heroine finds herself in the gloomy, overwrought world of a Hardy or Bronte novel and proceeds to organize everyone out of their romantic tragedies into the pleasures of normal life. Flora Poste, orphaned at 19, chooses to live with relatives at Cold Comfort Farm in Sussex, where cows are named Feckless, Aimless, Pointless, and Graceless, and the proprietors, the dour Starkadder family, are tyrannized by Flora's mysterious aunt, who controls the household from a locked room. Flora's confident and clever management of an alarming cast of eccentrics is only half the pleasure of this novel. The other half is Gibbons's wicked sendup of romantic cliches, from the mad woman in the attic to the druidical peasants with their West Country accents and mystical herbs."
The back cover touts this as "very probably the funniest book ever written . . . a brilliant novel along classic lines." I really had a difficult time with this book. It's a satire so I probably just didn't understand the references. Plus, there were no characters that I really cared about. I found Flora arrogant and supercilious; and her relatives were caricatures of English peasants with really odd ways. But I persevered, and about halfway through I began to enjoy it. Even though I don't care for busybodies, Flora has an amazing confidence and foreknowledge of the outcome of her plans. She becomes easier to like as she develops warm feeling for her hayseed relatives. The humor was pretty broad but toward the end, I started to be more amused. And the ending is quite charming. This book has been sitting on my shelf for years so I'm glad to have finally read it.
Rating: 3.5

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