I picked this up having read a run of new books on my kindle, so wanted to read a nice proper book and an older one at that. I got Cold Comfort Farm along with masses of other fantastic orange Penguin paperbacks from my grandfather’s collection after he passed away last winter. I didn’t know anything about it, but ignorance is bliss so I hadn’t any expectations which is always a good thing I think.
Flora Poste has had the benefit of an expensive education but when her parents die she discovers she has very little in the way of inheritance. The thought of getting a job is too awful to contemplate so she decides to write to various relatives and request that she lives with them as a paying guest. She settles on going to the Sussex countryside to stay with her cousins, the Starkadders, on their farm. The Starkadders and the other farm workers are an odd bunch to say the least. There is Amos, a local preacher full of fire and brimstone, Seth the young handsome son who spends all his time getting local girls pregnant but really dreams of being in the “talkies”, Cousin Judith who spends all her time looking at pictures of her son, Seth, old Adam who is obsessed by his oddly named cows yet fails to notice when their hooves and horns drop off, the young, beautiful but wild Elfine and the rarely seen Aunt Ada Doom who stays in her rooms and rants about having seen something she shouldn’t in the wood shed, amongst others. Flora arrives with plans of how she is to civilise the family and tidy up the farm and sets to work right away, making plans for Elfine, Seth, Amos, Reuben and the others which, remarkably (slight spoiler alert!) all fall into place.
This book is hilarious. Not in a ‘laugh out loud’ way, but definitely in a ‘smile to yourself’ way. It is a pastiche of both Austen (with the meddling young heroine, like Emma for example) and rural working class novels like those of DH Lawrence and Thomas Hardy. Every character is an exaggeration, the local dialect is over the top to the point of absurdity and yet it all works! I started off hating Flora but rather came to like her, unlike an Austen woman who gets her comeuppance and learns a valuable life lesson from their meddling Flora improbably does manage to make life at Cold Comfort Farm better and set it’s inhabitants on happier, more fulfilled roads to the future.
Highly enjoyable! 4.5 stars