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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars SOMETHING NASTY HAPPENED IN THE WOODSHED...
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...
Published on Nov. 26 2007 by Lawyeraau

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars Decent but not great
This novel leaves me a little in the dark. I suspect I am not a part of Gibbons' target audience. I never felt there was anything particularly amusing here. Everything is pat and easily fixed at Cold Comfort -- but so puzzled am I, that I cannot but think -- this is the way the author meant it -- so why am I unsatisfied?
Flora is one of those elegant, sensible...
Published on Aug. 16 2003 by Puabi


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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars SOMETHING NASTY HAPPENED IN THE WOODSHED..., Nov. 26 2007
By 
Lawyeraau (Balmoral Castle) - See all my reviews
(TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
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
5.0 out of 5 stars WICKEDLY FUNNY PARODY..., Jan. 17 2004
By 
Lawyeraau (Balmoral Castle) - See all my reviews
(TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
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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4.0 out of 5 stars Somethin' nasty in the wqoodshed, Feb. 23 2007
By 
E. A Solinas "ea_solinas" (MD USA) - See all my reviews
(TOP 10 REVIEWER)    (HALL OF FAME)   
"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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5.0 out of 5 stars SOMETHING NASTY HAPPENED IN THE WOOSHED..., July 18 2006
By 
Lawyeraau (Balmoral Castle) - See all my reviews
(TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
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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5.0 out of 5 stars A "slapstick" novel of manners?, Sept. 3 2003
By 
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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3.0 out of 5 stars Decent but not great, Aug. 16 2003
By 
Puabi (Californialand) - See all my reviews
This novel leaves me a little in the dark. I suspect I am not a part of Gibbons' target audience. I never felt there was anything particularly amusing here. Everything is pat and easily fixed at Cold Comfort -- but so puzzled am I, that I cannot but think -- this is the way the author meant it -- so why am I unsatisfied?
Flora is one of those elegant, sensible people with such an established, no-nonsense worldview that one becomes a little tired with them before one is through. The characters she meets are lent no particular depth either. Yes, yes, they are supposed to be funny. But are they? Can we have that feeling of affectionate hilarity when we think about them?
Not really. They are Flora's projects.
Gibbons is apparently an Austen fan, and comes up with some Austenisms of her own. Some of them are rather good--they made me grin and sometimes giggle. And yes, some of the character's actions were a little funny, too. But again, that was all...Hmmm, I suppose it's called "light reading." But I wanted...more.
One of the good things about "Cold Comfort Farm," I have to say, is that Gibbons knows where she is going. The plot does not make any tortuous twists in silly directions. No, Gibbons knows where she's going. She knows that she's not handling profound material. Or if she really is, and I don't get it, shoot me.
Yet I think I *am* being pretty unfair. I agonized a little about whether to give "Cold Comfort" a 3 or a 4. Perhaps if I had come to it at a different point in my life, perhaps if I were less of a bored jaded hardass reader, I might have liked it better. It's a matter of taste. And this book was most definitely *not* a torture. It just wasn't the gem that the reviews, and my English teacher, have made it out to be.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliantly hilarious classic - a must for Austen lovers!, 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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3.0 out of 5 stars I never meta-parody I didn't like, Aug. 28 2002
By 
Glen Engel Cox (Columbus, Ohio) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Through the late 1900s and into the 20th century, English novelists were full of woeful tales chronicling the sad fall of gentry from affluence to poverty. Stories like Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice joined the work of Charlotte and Emily Bronte, entertaining the turn of the century reader with these melodramatic tales. By the 1920s, when some had thought this trend had passed, it moved into another phase, with pulp paperbacks filled with lurid descriptions and the purplish prose imaginable. Stella Gibbons in 1932 attempted an emergency rescue, and succeeded wonderfully with her novel, Cold Comfort Farm, recently re-released to coincide with a new movie version by director John Schlesinger.
Flora Poste is the recently orphaned waif who finds it necessary to impose herself on some body of relatives. Her meager inheritance of 100 pounds a year is not enough "keep you in stockings and fans," as her good friend Mrs. Smiling remarks. She writes to several distant family members and receives three replies. Most of them are appaling, except for the one from her cousin Judith Starkadder, which is, at least, interesting and appaling. She writes back and accepts the offer of boarding from Cold Comfort Farm, to find out what "rights" she has that cousin Judith mysteriously refers to. Her arrival at Cold Comfort begins a warming trend that ends up firing up every Starkadder in sight, including: Amos, the hellfire-and-brimstone owner of the farm and preacher to the Quivering Brethern; Reuben, his son and would-be caretaker of Cold Comfort; Seth, the hunk-a-hunk-a burning love that has terrorized the female countriside, to his mother's extreme shame; the flighty Elfine, who whisks around in ethereal garments quoting her own poetry; and the matriarch who rules Cold Comfort Farm with a iron fist, Aunt Ada Doom, who saw something "nasty in the woodshed" when she was a little girl, and who hasn't left Cold Comfort Farm since.
Gibbons is artfully playing on the conventions of the melodrama, and it helps the reader to be familiar with the work of Thomas Hardy or Jane Austen to fully appreciate some of the playful work here. Without this meta-nature, Cold Comfort Farm would be amusing, but not nearly as effective. For modern readers, this is one novel that has weathered the intervening sixty years well, due in some part to Gibbons deft touch with her satire, but also her clear, readable style when not trying to out-purple the purple prose-wizards of the melodramas.
This is the perfect novel for those book-weary high-school students still suffering under the weighty tomes of "literature" that is force-fed to them by our assembly-factory education system. A good dose of parody, a kind of 1930s National Lampoon, should help them feel better about books, and literature in general.
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5.0 out of 5 stars QUIRKY, BRILLIANT, AND HILARIOUS PARODY..., Aug. 9 2002
By 
Lawyeraau (Balmoral Castle) - See all my reviews
(TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Cold Comfort Farm (Paperback)
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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4.0 out of 5 stars Jane Austen�s Heart + Oscar Wilde�s Brain, April 12 2002
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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Cold Comfort Farm
Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons (Paperback - Oct. 1 2008)
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