In Gibbons’s classic tale, first published in 1932, a resourceful young heroine finds herself in the gloomy, overwrought world of a Hardy or Bronte novel and proceeds to organize everyone out of their romantic tragedies into the pleasures of normal life. Flora Poste, orphaned at 19, chooses to live with relatives at Cold Comfort Farm in Sussex, where cows are named Feckless, Aimless, Pointless, and Graceless, and the proprietors, the dour Starkadder family, are tyrannized by Flora’s mysterious aunt, who controls the household from a locked room. Flora’s confident and clever management of an alarming cast of eccentrics is only half the pleasure of this novel. The other half is Gibbons’s wicked sendup of romantic cliches, from the mad woman in the attic to the druidical peasants with their West Country accents and mystical herbs. Anne Massey’s skillful rendering of a variety of accents will make this story more accessible to American audiences. Recommended for both literary and popular collections.
This Library Journal review, via Amazon.com, makes me think I missed something in this book. Sometimes when I read classic books, I feel like I’m not really smart enough to get it, and this was one of those cases. I found the book mildly enjoyable, but it certainly wasn’t “wickedly funny” like I had heard it would be. I found Flora kind of irritating in the way she set out to model her relatives after herself. Sure, she helped many of them a lot, but she also told one young, impressionable girl to stop writing poetry and being so smart and instead to wear proper clothes and act shy and stupid around men. What??
I did enjoy this book, but I think I need a contextual refresher before I tackle it again. Or maybe I’ll just watch the movie.
Rating: Good but Forgettable