Cold Comfort Farm

Author: Stella Gibbons
Published: 1932
Website: Wikipedia Page

Cold Comfort Farm is Stella Gibbons’ tale of a most peculiar family living on a farm and the snobbish and pretentious cousin Flora who tries to fix them. I was quite lucky to have read Cold Comfort Farm a day after finishing P. G. Wodehouse’s Pigs Have Wings. Each novel is a comedy and a parody of life in England during the early-mid 1900s. While Wodehouse focused his satire on the lords, earls, castles, and manors of the time, Gibbons chooses to make fun of the glamorization of the countryside. The reader is first introduced to Flora, a sheltered yet full of steel and entirely stubborn twenty year-old orphan whose parents raised her well-mannered and wealthy before dying almost bankrupt. Flora’s modest income results in her choosing to stay with relatives; and of course the relatives she agrees to live with are the gloomiest and direst as they plow through their secluded life on Cold Comfort Farm in Howling, Sussex.

While Wodehouse grabs the reader with absurdity and farces, Gibbons chooses to express satire with straight-faced narration and without actually admitting that anything strange had taking place. And yet looking back on the novel I cannot help but realize how silly it it. Cold Comfort Farm stars a grandmother who has stayed in her room for twenty years, a mad uncle obsessed with water-voles, and an orphan who spends all her money on clothes for her cousin and who spends that money for the sole purpose of feeling okay about rearranging and fixing the life of every one of her family members. Just as Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (although I have never read it!) sought to force zombies into a classic story (I might be wrong!), Cold Comfort Farm seemed to attempt to place a carnival of characters into Heidi’s mountaintop retreat without giving away the hilarious act until the final chapter. It was a great read, and for those of you who have read either Pigs Have Wings or Cold Comfort Farm, I really recommend that you read one after the other.

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One Comment to “Cold Comfort Farm”

  1. This is one of the great parodies. Read some gloomy Hardy and some overwrought D.H. Lawrence and you’ll see what Giggons is getting at with the gloom, the muck, the secrets, the seething.

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