Thursday, 1 December 2011

Thoughts on... Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons

You may remember that I did a series of not-quite-book-reviews at the end of 2010.  If not, let me refresh your memory by linking you to one of my more popular reviews (meaning more than just myself and my grandparents read it...) here.

Because this year I pledged myself to read 100 books on Goodreads, and then when that was too hard and obviously not going to happen, lowered that number to 60, I thought maybe I would review a few of the books that I read this summer.  Any of you looking for something to read, or looking for a debate are welcome to weigh in.

Last night I finished Stella Gibbons' Cold Comfort Farm, which was given to me by my grandparents a few Christmases back.  Having just finished The Help, which was amazing, I was feeling that floundering falling without a net sensation of weaning myself away from a very good book.  I had no idea what to read next.  I didn't want a heavy classic.  I didn't want fluffy romance.  I had no idea what I wanted.

This is going to sound stupid, but I picked Cold Comfort Farm because its cover has a cow on it.

Moo.
So, here's  brief run down of the book.  Q: What do you get if you take an orphaned Londonite and strand her in the country in the middle of the 1930s on the worlds strangest farm? A: A tale of meddling and pastoral satire, of course.

From page one, Gibbons' prose is witty and quotable.  On several occassions, she had me running for my notebook to write down my favourite quotes. 


"One of the disadvantages of almost universal education was the fact that all kinds of persons acquired a familiarity with one's favourite writers.  It gave one a curious feeling; it was like seeing a drunken stranger wrapped in one's dressing gown."


She is both clever and pleasant, whilst all the time being extremely judgemental of the world she writes about.  It is clear she finds D.H. Lawrence (her contemporary) ridiculous, as personified by the way she pities the sex obsessed Mr. Mybug. 

But here's the thing that bugs me about the protagonist, Flora Poste.  She's too normal.  She doesn't really seem to have emotions at all.  Both her parents die, she doesn't grieve at all.  And she goes about meddling in other people's lives without trouble.  Her plans always work.  People always fall in love with her.  She doesn't appear to have a single flaw.  Were this another novel, perhaps Flora's meddling should have bitten her on the bottom. 

The effect of this is eerie.  It doesn't take away from the book, but as I read, I had an inkling that something was not right.  Normally, you have a character, they're average, relatable etc., but they have one huge unoverlookable flaw to overcome in the course of the novel.  That drives the story.  Flora has that... in that she is the world's biggest control freak... but it's not presented as a flaw.  In fact, it drives the story by being the saving grace of all the other characters.  Bit by bit, she imposes order on Cold Comfort, and then once it is perfect enough for her to live in she leaves.

Curiouser and curiouser.

Anyway, you should read it for yourself.  Get to know Flora Poste and Stella Gibbons, get inside the witticisms that will have you screaming "Yes!  This is how I feel too!"  And you should tell me what you think.

A must for fans of D.H. Lawrence, but only if you're willing to have him mocked.

I give Cold Comfort Farm 3 out of 5 mysteriously disintegrating cows.

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