I do not think that there can ever be enough books about anything and I say that knowing that some of them are going to be about Pilates.The more knowledge the better seems like a solid rule of thumb, even though I have watched enough science fiction films to accept that humanity’s unchecked pursuit of learning will end with robots taking over the world.-Sarah Vowell

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons

Published in 1932, but set in the not too distant future for some obscure reason, this novel tells the tale of the now orphaned Flora Poste who does not wish to get a job, but cannot live off of the yearly sum of one hundred pounds, decides to write letters to relatives and see if she can live with one of them for a while until she finds a suitable husband--not that she's looking for one at the moment.  Her best friend the widowed Mrs. Smiling who has a coterie of suitors trailing after her with the oddest of nicknames such as Bikki and Swooth thinks she is nuts. But when Flora decides upon the Starkadders of Cold Comfort Farm in Sussex due to the odd nature of the letter she received wherein her cousin Judith told her that they would take her in due to some debt they owed her father that had cursed the farm but to not ask her what it was about because she would not tell her.  Flora tells Mrs. Smiling that she will send word when she gets there if there is an oversexed Seth or a Reuben and if she'll need gumboots.  Her darling friend Charles tells her he will come in his aeroplane anytime she needs a lift back home.

Of course, when she gets there she immediately sends a wire back to Mrs. Smiley that there is indeed a Seth and a Reuben and she has a definite need of gumboots.  Adam, the first person of the household that she meets, takes care of the cows and other animals on the farm and is about ninety-years-old.  He adores all animals and often sings to them.  Seth does nothing around the farm but gets the serving girl pregnant. He has four illegitimate children and loves to go the "talkies" (movies).  Reuben is trying to run the farm but is not being allowed to.  His father Amos has a fire in his belly to preach to the sinners of hellfire and brimstone which he does in town once a week.  Seth's mother, Judith stays in bed and moans about her son Seth.  Mrs. Beetle, the serving girl, Meriam's mother and Meriam on occasion, take care of the house and cook the meals other than breakfast, which Adam poorly fixes.  And then there was Mrs. Starkadder, Aunt Ada Doom, who has shut herself up in her room only to be seen twice a year by the family.  She has her meals brought up to her daily by Mrs. Beetle and the farm records are also brought up regularly.  As Aunt Ada Doom is fond of saying "There have always been Starkadders at Cold Comfort Farm".  And as long as she is alive none of them are to leave to even go into the big town of Beershorn except when the money needs to be deposited into the bank.  They all bicker and fight with each other and the other Starkadders that I haven't named (there are many) that are married their wives live off the site because they are not welcome in the house.  

Flora immediately takes it upon herself to fix the problems that Cold Comfort Farm is having and make things right.  She starts with Amos and Reuben. She encourages Amos to go out and preach town to town and city to city in a Ford van, which would let Reuben have control of the farm. She also works on her woods-wild cousin Elfine to turn her into a lady so she can be made into a marriageable material.  But she doesn't stop there. She has plans for others as well and the whole thing snowballs. The only problem thwarting her plans is the mean and supposedly crazy Aunt Ada Doom who saw something in the woodshed when she was little that made her lose her mind.  

This book is a delight to read. It pokes fun at intellectuals (who seem to be obsessed with sex) as well as the country folk.  But it's a good-natured poke. The author makes up a lot of words in this book that you would think they belong to the language of those living in the area of Sussex and one of them was added to the Oxford English Dictionary.  But don't worry about being lost in the language as it is very easy to understand--hilariously so, I might add.  This book is a bit ridiculous and you just have to go with the flow as you will realize when the cows start losing hooves.  Just suspend belief and take a step into the unreality of this wacky novel.

Here's more information about the novel: http://www.bookdrum.com/books/cold-comfort-farm/9780140274141/bookmarks-1-25.html?bookId=1186

 There are some things (like first love and one’s reviews) at which a woman in her middle years does not care to look too closely.
-Stella Gibbons (Cold Comfort Farm p 7)

I am only nineteen, but I have already observed that whereas there still lingers some absurd prejudice against living on one’s friends, no limits are set, either by society or by one’s own conscience, to the amount one may impose upon one’s relatives.
-Stella Gibbons (Cold Comfort Farm p 15)

My idea of hell is a very large party in a cold room.
-Stella Gibbons (Cold Comfort Farm p 16)

Curious how Love destroys every vestige of that politeness which the human race, in its years of evolution, has so painfully acquired.
-Stella Gibbons (Cold Comfort Farm p 31)

Never confront and enemy at the end of a journey, unless it happens to be his journey.
-Stella Gibbons (Cold Comfort Farm p 47)

Surely she had endured enough for one evening without having to listen to intelligent conversation!
-Stella Gibbons (Cold Comfort Farm p 100)

He said that a woman’s success could only be estimated by the success of her sexual life…
-Stella Gibbons (Cold Comfort Farm p 122)
Richard had realized, not that Elfine was beautiful, but that he loved Elfine. (Young men frequently need this fact pointed out to them, as Flora knew by observing the antics of her friends.)
-Stella Gibbons (Cold Comfort Farm)

She knew from experience that intellectuals thought the proper—nay, the only—way to fall in love with somebody was to do it the very instant you saw them. You met somebody, and thought they were ‘A charming person. So gay and simple.’ Then you walked home from a party with them (preferably across Hampstead Heath, about three in the morning)discussing whether you should sleep together or not. Sometimes you asked them to go to Italy with you. Sometimes they asked you to go to Italy (preferably Portofino) with them. You held hands, and laughed, and kissed them and called them your ‘true love’.  You loved them for eight months, and then you met somebody else and began being gay and simple all over again, with small-hours’ walk across Hampstead, Portofino, invitation, and all. It was very simple, gay, and natural, somehow.
-Stella Gibbons (Cold Comfort Farm p 190)
Link to Amazon:  https://www.amazon.com/Cold-Comfort-Farm-Stella-Gibbons-ebook/dp/B00ODEFPRM/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1498655458&sr=8-1&keywords=cold+comfort+farm

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