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Cold Comfort Farm
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
TOP 100 REVIEWERon July 18, 2006
First published in 1932, this novel is a hysterically funny, tongue in cheek parody of the heavy handed, gloomy novels of some early twentieth century English writers who had previously been so popular. Tremendously successful when first published, "Cold Comfort Farm" caused quite a stir in its time.

The novel starts out innocuously enough, when well-educated Flora Poste finds herself orphaned at the age of twenty. Discovering that her father was not the wealthy man she believed him to be, she is resigned to the fate of having to live on a hundred pounds a year. Opting to live with relatives, rather than earn her bread, she seeks out a most unlikely set of relations, the odd Starkadder family who live in Howling, Sussex.

Therein begins what is certainly one of the funniest novels ever written. When Flora arrives in Howling, she meets her odd relatives, who live in neglected, ramshackle "Cold Comfort Farm", where they still wash the dishes with twigs, and have cows named Graceless, Pointless, Feckless, and Aimless. Headed by a seventy-nine year old matriarch, Flora's aunt, Ada Doom Starkadder, who has not been right in the head since she "saw something nasty happen in the woodshed" nearly seventy years ago, they are a motley and strange crew indeed. Confronted with their dismal and gloomy existence, Flora sets about trying to put things to right.

Peppered with eccentric, memorable characters, this book will take the reader on a journey not easily forgotten. It is one that is sure to make the reader revisit this novel yet again, like an old friend who is missed too soon.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
TOP 100 REVIEWERon November 26, 2007
Published in 1932, this novel is a hysterically funny, tongue in cheek parody of the heavy handed, gloomy novels of some early twentieth century English writers who had previously been so popular. Tremendously successful when first published, "Cold Comfort Farm" caused quite a stir in its time.

The novel starts out innocuosly enough, when well educated Flora Poste finds herself orphaned at the age of twenty. Discovering that her father was not the wealthy man she believed him to be, she is resigned to the fate of having to live on a hundred pounds a year. Opting to live with relatives, rather than earn her bread, she seeks out a most unlikely set of relations, the odd Starkadder family who live in Howling, Sussex.

Therein begins what is certainly one of the funniest novels ever written. When Flora arrives in Howling, she meets her odd relatives, who live in neglected, ramshackle "Cold Comfort Farm", where they still wash the dishes with twigs, and have cows named Graceless, Pointless, Feckless, and Aimless. Headed by a seventy nine year old matriarch, Flora's aunt, Ada Doom Starkadder, who has not been right in the head since she "saw something nasty happen in the woodshed" nearly seventy years ago, they are a motley and strange crew indeed. Confronted with their dismal and gloomy existence, Flora sets about trying to put things to right.

Peppered with eccentric, memorable characters, this book will take the reader on a journey not easily forgotten. It is one that is sure to make the reader revisit this novel yet again, like an old friend who is missed too soon.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
TOP 100 REVIEWERon January 17, 2004
First published in 1932, this novel is a hysterically funny, tongue-in-cheek parody of the heavy handed, gloomy novels of some early twentieth century English writers who had previously been so popular. Tremendously successful when first published, "Cold Comfort Farm" caused quite a stir in its time.
The novel starts out innocuously enough, when well-educated Flora Poste finds herself orphaned at the age of twenty. Discovering that her father was not the wealthy man she believed him to be, she is resigned to the fate of having to live on a hundred pounds a year. Opting to live with relatives, rather than earn her bread, she seeks out a most unlikely set of relations, the odd Starkadder family who live in Howling, Sussex.
Therein begins what is certainly one of the funniest novels ever written. When Flora arrives in Howling, she meets her odd relatives, who live in neglected, ramshackle "Cold Comfort Farm", where they still wash the dishes with twigs, and have cows named Graceless, Pointless, Feckless, and Aimless. Headed by a seventy-nine year old matriarch, Flora's aunt, Ada Doom Starkadder, who has not been right in the head since she "saw something nasty happen in the woodshed" nearly seventy years ago, they are a motley and strange crew indeed. Confronted with their dismal and gloomy existence, Flora sets about trying to put things to right.
Peppered with eccentric, memorable characters, this book will take the reader on a journey not easily forgotten. It is one that is sure to make the reader revisit this novel yet again, like an old friend who is missed too soon.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Parody is easy to do but hard to sustain or do well, and almost always done as an end it itself--the author saying, "See how wicked and clever I am, and how silly the thing I'm mocking is!" Gibbons' genius is that she while she pokes fun at specific genres and authors (including herself), she actually writes a complete (and well-done) novel, and she treats the characters with affection and a certain dignity. The result is a book that's not only clever, funny, and well-written, but that is also unexpectedly, in the end, sweet and romantic.
For those wondering, the 1995 film adaptation (available on DVD right here on Amazon) is remarkably faithful (with understandable trimming, folding and tucking), and likewise hilarious without ever being mean spirited. Both have my highest recommendation. ..bruce..
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on January 17, 2004
Every time I pick this book up I know I will be smilling in minutes. Not only is it funny but the book is also very clever in its takeoff of mouldy Brittish storeylines.
Everything about COLD COMFORT FARM is delicious - Aunt Ada Doom who saw 'something nasty in the woodshed', the sukebind in bud, tidy Flora who is determined to tidy untidy cold comfort farm.
I don't think there is a whole lot going on below the surface of this book - I care about Flora but the other characters are mostly there for the satire they bring to the situations they are in.
This is a book meant to be read lightly for pure unadulted entertainment.
A must read - if you "get it" you'll read it over and over.
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"There have always been Starkadders at Cold Comfort Farm."

That rather ominous announcement sets the tone for "Cold Comfort Tale," a slyly comic tale about a modern young woman who decides to "tidy up" a backward Sussex farm. Gibbons' deft sense of humour and entertaining characters bring alive what could have been just another coming-of-age novel.

Young Flora Poste unexpectedly finds herself orphaned, with only a tiny yearly allowance. But instead of getting a job and apartment, she decides to go live with relatives, so she can get life experience, tidy up, and make life nice and orderly. After a few vetos, Flora decides to go to Cold Comfort Farm, a "doomed house" whose inhabitants feel they owe a debt to her.

When she arrives, she finds a clan of inbred Sussex hillbillies, including her grimly religious uncle, depressed aunt, "highly sexed" cousins, a very fertile farm girl, and the crazed matriarch, Aunt Ada Doom, who "saw something nasty in the woodshed." Even worse, a pompous writer is infatuated with her. But Flora is determined to make things orderly, and so she begins changing Cold Comfort Farm...

It takes a really good writer to straddle the line between spoofery and a serious book. Stella Gibbons was one such writer, and like Anita Loos, she was happy to eye everything humorously: the idle wealthy (Mary Smiling and her bra collection), people who live in squalor and hate it, but aren't willing to change (the Farm inhabitants), and even intellectuals ("Do you believe women have souls?"). Even the livestock gets funny names like Feckless, Graceless and Arsenic.

For the most part, "Cold Comfort Farm" does seem orderly and tidy -- Flora drags it into the 20th century, sends people off to better lives, and arranges marriages, including one for her fey cousin to a young aristocrat. The only flaw is the ending: Gibbons never tells us what Flora's "rights" are, what Aunt Ada saw, or what happened with Flora's dad.

At first, Flora comes across as rather manipulative and shallow. The odd thing is, as the book progresses, we see that Flora's liking for tidiness is essentially good-hearted. Like one of Jane Austen's heroines, she does these things not just for herself, but for their sakes as well -- she wants a "happily-ever-after" for everybody, including the mad matriarch, her womanizing cousin, and fire-and-brimstone uncle.

This edition is a particularly nice one, with a whimsical cartoony cover that suits the tone of the book very well, and an interesting foreword by Lynn Truss, who knows a few things about tidiness, order, and humorous language herself.

While the ending of the book is not as tidy and orderly as I'd hoped, "Cold Comfort Farm" is still an entertainingly wry novel -- call it a comedy of improving manners.
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on September 3, 2003
Could there be such a thing as a "slapstick" novel of manners? This one might qualify, for its humour both witty and broad and its country-house setting.
Our highly-educated heroine Flora Poste, intelligent, witty, but fashion-addled, aimless, and seemingly shallow, descends on her rural relatives when her parents die leaving her penniless. Sharp parodies of rural England, the family includes, among others, an insane matriarch locked in her room, a love-mad and graceless granddaughter, a grandson who plays the same role among the maids that the bull does among the cows, an antique manservant who fails to notice when a cow's leg falls off. In short order Flora contrives to marry off the granddaughter to a local grandee, packs the grandson off to Hollywood, and generally manages things so craftily that everyone not only lives Happily Ever After but also does so with Good Manners and better haircuts.
The most winning feature of Gibbon's book (after the fact that it is hysterically funny) is that she skewers not only the conventions of the 1930s upper classes to which Flora belongs, but also the working class denizens of the farm. At first everyone seems faintly ridiculous but over time your affections for ALL these characters grows. By the end you are actually happy to see them all happily settled, and Flora no longer seems like a conniver but a clever and sympathetic heroine-more Elizabeth Bennet than Becky Sharpe. A very neat trick on the part of the author, and one well worth the discovering.
One miniscule note of caution: Gibbons, writing in the 1930s, sets her novel "in the near future," and adds a couple of futuristic features that confuse the casual reader-telephones with televisions in them so you can see the speaker, references to the "Anglo-Nicaraguan War" and the like. You may safely ignore them without diminishing the book.
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on March 2, 2003
Newly-orphaned Flora Poste decides that the hundred pounds per annum left to her by her parents will simply not do. Disregarding her friend Mrs. Smiling's advice that she find employment, Flora seeks out her only relatives to support her. Choosing the Starkadders of Cold Comfort Farm in Howling, Sussex, Flora sets about making life comfortable and orderly for her bizarre cousins.
Setting the action slightly in the future, Stella Gibbons creates a hilariously surreal world pulled straight from Gothic-style novels of the early 1900's where descriptions of the country were prolix, decadent, and elaborate (she precedes those sections with ***). The dark and melodramatic and stereotypical are given much the same treatment Jane Austen gave the original Gothic novels in Northanger Abbey. In general, Gibbons seems to model herself after Austen just as Flora models herself after her favorite books. Flora is reminiscent of Emma Woodhouse (of Austen's Emma), trying to make everyone's life more perfect. Except in Flora's case, it works beautifully.
Flora is a cheeky, but dignified character - everything she predicts happens exactly as she says, no matter how wildly preposterous the situation may be. As she begins to straighten out the chaos of Cold Comfort by allowing each member fulfill their dreams - of course, only in proper channels and as neatly as possible - she in effect takes over the family. The last obstacle is Aunt Ada Doom, a woman every inch as formidable as, well, Flora herself.
Each of the thoroughly memorable characters are totally unique - I dare you to find any more eccentric and still lovable - with Dickensian names, but not the baggage. This is a book that didn't make me smile or chuckle, but positively laugh with glee. It's clever, witty, sly, and extremely satisfying.
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon August 9, 2002
Published in 1932, this novel is a hysterically funny, tongue in cheek parody of the heavy handed, gloomy novels of some early twentieth century English writers who had previously been so popular. Tremendously successful when first published, "Cold Comfort Farm" caused quite a stir in its time.
The novel starts out innocuosly enough, when well educated Flora Poste finds herself orphaned at the age of twenty. Discovering that her father was not the wealthy man she believed him to be, she is resigned to the fate of having to live on a hundred pounds a year. Opting to live with relatives, rather than earn her bread, she seeks out a most unlikely set of relations, the odd Starkadder family who live in Howling, Sussex.
Therein begins what is certainly one of the funniest novels ever written. When Flora arrives in Howling, she meets her odd relatives, who live in neglected, ramshackle "Cold Comfort Farm", where they still wash the dishes with twigs, and have cows named Graceless, Pointless, Feckless, and Aimless. Headed by a seventy nine year old matriarch, Flora's aunt, Ada Doom Starkadder, who has not been right in the head since she "saw something nasty happen in the woodshed" nearly seventy years ago, they are a motley and strange crew indeed. Confronted with their dismal and gloomy existence, Flora sets about trying to put things to right.
Peppered with eccentric, memorable characters, this book will take the reader on a journey not easily forgotten. It is one that is sure to make the reader revisit this novel yet again, like an old friend who is missed too soon.
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Stella Gibbons's "Cold Comfort Farm" is a very intereting effort, despite some problems. The novel reads like a mix between Austen countryside prose and Wilde's cinism and desbilef, that made the book very interesting, but, on the hand, its characters are very shallow and monodimensional.
When Flora losts her parents, she seeks any relative who can support her. The only family who accepts the girl are the Starkadder, who happen to live in the Cold Comfort Farm, hence the title. They are quite a family. Any of them has his/her problems, limitation and interests. Flora goes to live with than and she [can you guess?] changes everybody's lives, even the farm's.
Gibbons's prose is fluent and interesting. The story, despite its previsibility, keeps the reader interested. The characters, as I aforementioned, are very monodimensional, ie, they are more types the human beings, like, the Sad Aunt, the Naive Cousin.... nevertheless, they are good to spend some hours with. Flora, the protagonist, is the more interesting, but and she suffers some changer through the narrative, but very smoothy ones. In the end, she is not very different from the girl she is the begining.
The title is very interesting and self-explianable: in that farm, Flora finds some comfort, but this is still a cold place due to the weird people that live there. The farm can be read as a metaphor of the world and the some kind of people one may find, but even then, the author is a bit naive. Her world is too easy to live and the problems too easy to solve. Real life is a bit different.
All in all, it is a funny reading. Despite being a bit of Austen and a bit of Wilde, this novel isn't close to any of their work. Anyway, it is worth reading for people who like an easy and sometimes interesting prose.
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