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66 of 66 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A "slapstick" novel of manners?
Could there be such a thing as a "slapstick" novel of manners? This one might qualify, for its humour both witty and broad and its country-house setting.
Our highly-educated heroine Flora Poste, intelligent, witty, but fashion-addled, aimless, and seemingly shallow, descends on her rural relatives when her parents die leaving her penniless. Sharp parodies...
Published on September 3, 2003 by bensmomma

versus
85 of 88 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable - but not the original text
I read the book as part of a book club. We all found it amusing and entertaining. Be warned - this is not the same text as originally published. I ordered this edition because it would ship sooner than others which appeared higher on the sort list. While the story arc is the same, and the characters as quirky, it became apparent that my version misses a lot of the...
Published on January 5, 2009 by Amazon Customer


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66 of 66 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A "slapstick" novel of manners?, September 3, 2003
By 
This review is from: Cold Comfort Farm (Classic, 20th-Century, Penguin) (Paperback)
Could there be such a thing as a "slapstick" novel of manners? This one might qualify, for its humour both witty and broad and its country-house setting.
Our highly-educated heroine Flora Poste, intelligent, witty, but fashion-addled, aimless, and seemingly shallow, descends on her rural relatives when her parents die leaving her penniless. Sharp parodies of rural England, the family includes, among others, an insane matriarch locked in her room, a love-mad and graceless granddaughter, a grandson who plays the same role among the maids that the bull does among the cows, an antique manservant who fails to notice when a cow's leg falls off. In short order Flora contrives to marry off the granddaughter to a local grandee, packs the grandson off to Hollywood, and generally manages things so craftily that everyone not only lives Happily Ever After but also does so with Good Manners and better haircuts.
The most winning feature of Gibbon's book (after the fact that it is hysterically funny) is that she skewers not only the conventions of the 1930s upper classes to which Flora belongs, but also the working class denizens of the farm. At first everyone seems faintly ridiculous but over time your affections for ALL these characters grows. By the end you are actually happy to see them all happily settled, and Flora no longer seems like a conniver but a clever and sympathetic heroine-more Elizabeth Bennet than Becky Sharpe. A very neat trick on the part of the author, and one well worth the discovering.
One miniscule note of caution: Gibbons, writing in the 1930s, sets her novel "in the near future," and adds a couple of futuristic features that confuse the casual reader-telephones with televisions in them so you can see the speaker, references to the "Anglo-Nicaraguan War" and the like. You may safely ignore them without diminishing the book.
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85 of 88 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable - but not the original text, January 5, 2009
By 
I read the book as part of a book club. We all found it amusing and entertaining. Be warned - this is not the same text as originally published. I ordered this edition because it would ship sooner than others which appeared higher on the sort list. While the story arc is the same, and the characters as quirky, it became apparent that my version misses a lot of the descriptive prose my friend all read. Skip this edition and get the full deal.
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84 of 88 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Satirical, Sardonic look at the English Novel in Cold Comfort Farm, July 13, 2006
By 
Rebecca Huston "telynor" (On the Banks of the Hudson) - See all my reviews
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Every now and then, usually when life gets a bit too stressful, I need a good belly laugh. And if an author can do it in a clever fashion, then all the better. Such was the case with Stella Gibbon's Cold Comfort Farm.

Written in 1932, and set in "the near future," it's the story of the Starkadder family and what happens when they have a run in with the determined Flora Poste. Flora is one of those heroines who is decidedly cheerful, and very intent on fixing up other peoples messes and untidiness. Forced with the decision to either throw herself on the mercy of some relations goodwill to take her in, or (horrors!) get a job, Flora writes to the various relations that she has in search of a home after the demise of her parents. In exchange, Flora will hand over her slight inheritance of a hundred pounds a year.

And it seems the only relations who do want her are the Starkadders, off in the downs of Sussex. Flora is imagining a tidy home farm. What she gets is a set of cranky, eccentric if not outright insane, cousins, with the ringleader, Aunt Ada Doom in the middle of it all. There is the son of Ada, Amos Starkadder, who runs the farm, but spends Tuesday nights off preaching fire and brimstone to the Brethren; his wife Judith who worships her youngest and views the world as perpetual misery and just wishes that everyone would leave her alone. Pretty Elfine, all of seventeen, spends her days running wild and imagining herself a dryad, twigs and leaves included. And then there are the boys, most notably, Reuben, who loves farming, but Amos doesn't trust him, and Seth, an oversexed, hunk of manhood who seems to have nothing but sex on the brain, but the reality is much more interesting. And then the ancient, muttering Adam, who 'cletters' the dishes with thorny twigs.

In short, Flora has all sorts of interesting projects at hand, and it's a task that she falls to with glee with great practicality and not a little cunning on her part. It's a mad riot of a novel, generously slathered with wicked parodies of the overwrought prose of D.H. Lawrence and Thomas Hardy, asides to the writing of Gaskell and a great withering jab at the Brontes. For anyone who has survived a university level course in nineteenth century English lit, it's the perfect antidote to the general depression that follows such a course, and it's worth it.

Asute readers will note that Flora blithely goes about her mission of improving everyone's lives and being a dreadful snob about it. It takes a little while to realize that Gibbons is making fun of her heroine just as much as she is of the popular novels of the time. Flora never quite seems to see the chaos that she is spreading about in her wake as she goes about her tidying, and assumes that she is 'doing the right thing.'

From the names of the farm's herd of cows -- Aimless, Feckless, Graceless and Pointless and the stud bull, Big Business -- to the real intent and mystery of Aunt Ada, who saw something nasty in the woodshed, it's a grand read of a book. You'll find yourself giggling over the descriptions, the sly wit, and the oft-times ridiculous situations that arise in this tale of a tormented family. I enjoyed myself immensely, and found it vastly entertaining and worth it to mend the blues for an evening.

It's not a very long book, just under 240 pages, and if you can, find the new release from Penguin Books, with a new introduction by Lynne Truss, and a delightful cover by artist Roz Chast. There have been several film versions of this one made, most notably with Kate Beckensale as Flora, and I urge anyone who hasn't read the book to do so. You'll never look at English Literature in quite the same way again.
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46 of 49 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Do not buy from BN Publishing, November 15, 2010
By 
Arthur M. Bullock (Los Angeles, CA USA) - See all my reviews
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This review applies ONLY to the edition of "Cold Comfort Farm" sold by BN Publishing. It is an abridged edition - or as one reviewer called it, a "dumbed-down" version. It still retains some entertainment value, but reads more like a novelization for teens of the 1995 Kate Beckinsale move (which I liked very much) than great literature. I couldn't believe this was a book with such a wonderful reputation, and then I realized this wasn't what Stella Gibbons actually wrote. To make matters truly annoying, I had to confirm my suspicions from external sources. There is absolutely no indication in the book itself that it's anything other than the original. I certainly hope to get the real thing some day, and for anyone else I strongly recommend doing that, and not repeating my mistake.

A couple other reviewers have made this point before, but I feel it requires additional emphasis. Those reviews are buried among the high praises of people most of whom probably read unabridged editions, not this one. I don't know exactly how this happens, but I've noticed other cases where reviews clearly don't apply to the particular edition described on that page.
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26 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A brilliant, affectionate book, April 19, 2004
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This review is from: Cold Comfort Farm (Classic, 20th-Century, Penguin) (Paperback)
Parody is easy to do but hard to sustain or do well, and almost always done as an end it itself--the author saying, "See how wicked and clever I am, and how silly the thing I'm mocking is!" Gibbons' genius is that she while she pokes fun at specific genres and authors (including herself), she actually writes a complete (and well-done) novel, and she treats the characters with affection and a certain dignity. The result is a book that's not only clever, funny, and well-written, but that is also unexpectedly, in the end, sweet and romantic.
For those wondering, the 1995 film adaptation (available on DVD right here on Amazon) is remarkably faithful (with understandable trimming, folding and tucking), and likewise hilarious without ever being mean spirited. Both have my highest recommendation. ..bruce..
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29 of 30 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars don't buy this edition - its abridged and dumbed-down, September 4, 2011
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This review is from: Cold Comfort Farm (Paperback)
My book club chose this book for this month's read. I ordered a copy from the library (Penguin Books 1996 edition) as well as this edition (2011 Wilder Publications) for my daughter. By a fluke, when I was starting chapter 13 in the Penquin edition, I picked up the Wilder edition and went to Chapter 13. I was horrified to find the Wilder edition not only cut outs entire passages, but also alters the text: for example, in this description of the dressmaker cutting the cloth for Elphine's dress:
Penguin: "Flora sat and watched for an hour while M. Solide worried the satin like a terrier, tore it into breadths, swathed and caped and draped it. She was pleased to see that Elfine..." "
Wilder: "Flora watched for an hour while he cut and tore and folded the silk. She was pleased to see that Elfine...".
This is sickening. It occurs every where - magnificent passages cut altogether or altered to insipid meaninglessness. It's an insult to the author and the reader, and I couldn't find anything in the book or on Amazon.com to warn you that this is an abridgement. Don't buy this - get the Penguin edition only.
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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars QUIRKY, BRILLIANT, AND HILARIOUS PARODY..., August 9, 2002
This review is from: Cold Comfort Farm (Paperback)
Published in 1932, this novel is a hysterically funny, tongue in cheek parody of the heavy handed, gloomy novels of some early twentieth century English writers who had previously been so popular. Tremendously successful when first published, "Cold Comfort Farm" caused quite a stir in its time.
The novel starts out innocuosly enough, when well educated Flora Poste finds herself orphaned at the age of twenty. Discovering that her father was not the wealthy man she believed him to be, she is resigned to the fate of having to live on a hundred pounds a year. Opting to live with relatives, rather than earn her bread, she seeks out a most unlikely set of relations, the odd Starkadder family who live in Howling, Sussex.
Therein begins what is certainly one of the funniest novels ever written. When Flora arrives in Howling, she meets her odd relatives, who live in neglected, ramshackle "Cold Comfort Farm", where they still wash the dishes with twigs, and have cows named Graceless, Pointless, Feckless, and Aimless. Headed by a seventy nine year old matriarch, Flora's aunt, Ada Doom Starkadder, who has not been right in the head since she "saw something nasty happen in the woodshed" nearly seventy years ago, they are a motley and strange crew indeed. Confronted with their dismal and gloomy existence, Flora sets about trying to put things to right.
Peppered with eccentric, memorable characters, this book will take the reader on a journey not easily forgotten. It is one that is sure to make the reader revisit this novel yet again, like an old friend who is missed too soon.
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Not Cold Comfort Farm, December 5, 2010
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Run away, run away screaming from this version of the book! This is NOT the book Stella Gibbons wrote. I don't know how it's legal to make serious changes to a book and publish it under the original author's name. The charm and humor of the original is completely lost in this badly re-written version of the book.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rural Gothic, January 2, 2007
The humor of this glorious funny book resides mainly in Gibbons' masterly control of prose style; if you have only seen the movie, you know less than half of what the author has to offer. Yes, she creates a wonderful gallery of extraordinary characters, and the story clips along nicely if rather predictably, but it is the author's language that really gets you laughing out loud. Written in 1932, the book is a parody of a certain kind of rural melodrama popular at the time, but of the authors mentioned by the Oxford Companion to English Literature as models only D. H. Lawrence is still read today. But no matter; there are strong echoes of Hardy and the Brontes as well, and anyway the language works just fine on its own. It ranges from gothic descriptions of a landscape primeval and stark, throbbing with the fecund sap of plant and beast, to gnomic sayings delivered in a rural dialect so thick as to be incomprehensible if one did not realize that half the words in it were probably made up by the author. And, as an added incentive, Gibbons has helpfully marked her most purple passages with two or three stars, "according to the method perfected by the late Herr Baedecker."

Flora Poste, twenty, fashionable, well educated, and recently orphaned, decides against working for a living so writes around to various distant relatives asking them to take her in. She decides to go to live with the Starkadders, some distant cousins whose alarming address is Cold Comfort Farm, Howling, Sussex. (This will seem less odd if you know English place-names, and throughout the book Gibbons' choice of names is both almost plausible and brilliantly absurd.) The farm is described in the first of the starred passages, beginning thus:

"Dawn crept over the Downs like a sinister white animal, followed by the snarling cries of a wind eating its way between the black boughs of the thorns. The wind was the furious voice of this sluggish animal light that was baring the dormers and mullions and scullions of Cold Comfort Farm. The farm was crouched on a bleak hill-side, whence its fields, fanged with flints, dropped steeply to the village of Howling a mile away . . . ".

The extended family she meets there, all with short biblical names of Old Testament force, is equally dour, and the living conditions are primitive to say the least. The household is presided over by the matriarch, Great Aunt Ada Doom, who "saw something nasty in the woodshed" as a child and has barely emerged from her room since, but terrifies the others into submission for fear of completing her descent into total insanity. But Flora determines to take the farm and the family in hand, beginning with the youngest, the nature spirit Elfine, and working up to the old woman. The manner in which she does so forms the plot of the rest of the book.

The gothic style which the author handles so well depends upon the ability to evoke impending doom, and Gibbons virtually redefines the verb "impend." So the first half of the novel at least is superb. However, as light and warmth are brought into Cold Comfort Farm, the doom begins to dissipate. In nineteenth-century terms, Gibbons' influence changes from Bronte to Austen, whom she can certainly match in witty observation, though at the loss of the gothic elemental power. The plot, too, lacks suspense; everything that Flora undertakes to do works out with few surprises; the main parody element at the end is the neatness with which it all does work out, even including the resolution of Flora's own romantic needs. But in exchange, as others on this site have mentioned, Stella Gibbons achieves a transformation of a different kind: the forbidding cast of caricatures to whom we are first introduced has become a family of real people, whom Flora finds herself caring about quite a lot. And the reader too. Skill of this sort takes Stella Gibbons beyond the ranks of a mere parodist and reveals her as a true novelist.

[I actually read the book in the older Penguin edition, which has a fine cover, quite relevant to the period, taken from a painting by Stanley Spencer. But it is rather sloppily printed. The Penguin de luxe edition (which I have seen but didn't buy) is much better produced, and has the added bonus of a cover by Roz Chast -- a masterly match-up of two funny women working eighty years apart.]
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A brilliant book, September 29, 2000
By 
Suzanne Sanderson (Mercer Island, WA USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Cold Comfort Farm (Classic, 20th-Century, Penguin) (Paperback)
Not long before she died, I wrote to Stella Gibbons to tell her how much I liked her books - all of them. She wrote back that most readers have only read Cold Comfort Farm. "It's rather like having a brilliant eldest child who puts the rest in the shade", she said. Since, with the exception of Cold Comfort Farm, all of her literary offspring are out of print, content yourself with buying the brilliant eldest book. Flora Poste, a true Virgo, descends on the Starkadder clan and creates calm out of chaos. And as with all good fairy tales, even the Starkadders lived as happily-ever-after as anyone with such a lurid emotional life could. (Note: If you enjoy this book and want to try some of Stella Gibbons' other titles, there are some gems, but they are all quite different in style from Cold Comfort Farm - it is unique.)
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Cold Comfort Farm (Classic, 20th-Century, Penguin)
Cold Comfort Farm (Classic, 20th-Century, Penguin) by Stella Gibbons (Paperback - February 1, 1996)
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