Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons

When 19 year old Flora Poste finds herself orphaned and with little income, she decides to throw herself upon the mercy of her relatives, the Starkadders, at Cold Comfort Farm.  When she arrives at the farm, she finds her hitherto unencountered relatives in a state of fragmentation and despondency.  Her relatives include her perpetually distraught cousin Judith, and Judith’s husband Amos, who loves to preach hellfire and damnation, the good looking but arrogant Seth and the reticent and suspicious Rueben, and the ethereal young child Elfine.  It being Flora’s nature to organise people’s lives, she decides that she must take the opportunity to lead the Starkadders into a more conventional state of existence.  However, the biggest obstacle to Flora’s plans is the elusive matriarch, Aunt Ada Doom, a formidable woman who saw something in the woodshed decades earlier and has never recovered, and who has not left the farm for twenty years.  Will Flora be able to rise to the challenge?

This book is extremely well written, with some wonderfully descriptive passages, especially with regard to the dull and gloomy state of the farm, which reflects the attitudes of the people who live within it.

It’s described as hilarious; I would personally say that it was very amusing in parts, although it did not provide any big belly-laughs.  Nonetheless, it was enjoyable throughout, with plenty of acerbic observations.

Flora is of course the main character, and although the book is narrated in the third person, events are largely portrayed from Flora’s point of view.  Credit must go to Stella Gibbons for making her such a likeable person, when in fact she spends much of her life interfering in the business of others and making wry observations on their lesser qualities.  However, her good intentions shine through, and it was impossible for me not to hope that things turned out just as she had hoped (as for whether they did or not – I’m giving nothing away, but I would highly recommend that you read it to find out)!

All of the characters are portrayed well and with good humour.  Flora herself reminded me somewhat of Emma Woodhouse, from Jane Austen’s ‘Emma’ (Austen is referenced a few times throughout the book), and I like to think that if Austen herself had been writing novels some 120 years after her own lifetime, this would be the sort of thing she had written.

This is a gently diverting novel, which will make you smile, and it is an enjoyable book, which I suspect will benefit from repeated reads.

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