Last weekend, I plowed through Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons and laughed during every bucolic moment of it. Cold Comfort Farm is the story of Flora Poste, a sophisticated and sensible Londoner of 19 who goes to live with her rural relatives at Cold Comfort Farm in Sussex after she becomes an orphan. The farm looks like something out of The Fall of the House of Usher and contains a hilarious group of characters:
1) Aunt Ada Doom: Head of the family and emotional tyrant after an unfortunate incident in childhood (“I saw something nasty in the woodshed!”).
2) Cousin Judith Starkadder: Major gloom and doom (this woman could give lessons to Hamlet).
3) Cousin Elfine Starkadder: Fond of flitting around and in love with the young lord next door.
4) Cousin Seth Starkadder: The local “playa”/libertine and movie lover.
5) Cousin Reuben Starkadder: Sad-faced farmer who only wants to inherit the farm.
6) Cousin Amos Starkadder: Self-proclaimed evangelist and Judith’s husband.
Flora can’t bear a mess. As a result, she decides to take action and tidies up the entire family (sometimes with help from loyal friends), making her relatives more content and happier with their lives. All of them undergo a transformation in one way or another, and the biggest and most unexpected transformation is Aunt Ada.
The book is funny because it uses a mildly ironic tone and lots of contradictions. It’s also intended as a parody; Gibbons was making fun of the doom-laden rural novels that were popular during the era when the book was written.
So if you’re in the mood for a bit of rural humor, try Cold Comfort Farm. And watch out for those woodsheds.