on August 1, 2006
I had to request this book through an out of state library because it is so rare, particularly here in the U.S. I hope it is put back into print because it is quite good. Maybe not as good as Cold Comfort Farm but anyone who likes Stella's masterpiece would probably enjoy this one. It basically follows her usual fairy tale format, with just a bit of Jane Austen thrown in and focuses on life in a small village and its upperclass residents (and some of its lower class ones). I won't go into the plot details as there is a fairly lengthy description on Ms. Gibbons' nephew's website. It would be difficult to convey the best part of the book, which is the biting humor, so you'll have to check it out for yourself, which I urge anyone who liked Cold Comfort Farm to do.
on June 2, 2010
Lovers of Stella Gibson's Cold Comfort Farm (her first novel), should know this is a wiser, deeper and funnier book. Using fairy tales and Shakespeare comedies as plot devices (The Tempest, A Mid-Summer's Night's Dream, Cinderella, Snow White and Red Rose....)and set in an Essex Village in 1938, it examines (punctures) the British class system and middle-class snobbery, anti-semitism and the totalitarian family system. The characters are funny, human and the writing is wonderful...and it ends as all comedies should in a marriage (or two) and paired sets of lovers...
Viola is newly widowed when she's invited by her husband's family to come live with them in Sible Pelden. There's Mr. Wither, who's a fantastic bore; Mrs. Wither, who doesn't quite care for her new daughter-in-law (due to the fact that she's the daughter of a shop owner); and Tina and Madge, their middle-aged daughters who have never quite grown up and are waiting for something to happen to them. The story follows these characters and others over the course of a year, the highlight being a charity ball at which a local eligible bachelor named Victor Spring will be present.
One of the things that Stella Gibbons is famous for was her sense of humor, and nowhere is this more apparent than in Nightingale Wood. Stella Gibbons's humor is a little more maniacally funny, but the characters and plot of this one never fail to be entertaining.
There's a very surreal, Midsummer Night's Dream-esque feeling to this book--all kinds of people slipping away to the woods to conduct love affairs, licit and otherwise. So, often, this book reads like a fairy tale--a fairy tale with a twist, especially since the two Prince Charmings in this book doesn't always have the purest intentions...
The characterizations in this novel are especially strong. Viola isn't quite what you'd expect from a woman who married someone twenty years older than she; but she's all the more interesting for that because there's so much more to her personality than meets the eye. Mr. Wither is, as described above, a frightful bore; Madge is a middle-aged woman who's never totally grown up (as seen in her childlike delight over her new dog Polo); and Tina is a woman just dying to be loved. Well, she gets her wish, but not in the way she expected... the only character I didn't tally love (for good and for worse) was Victor Spring, who was a bit stereotypical; and every time Saxon, the chauffer, appeared, I kept thinking of Thomas from Upstairs, Downstairs. Also, the plot moved a bit too quickly in some places. However, this is a well-written, funny novel; I actually found myself guffawing out loud in several places. This book is definitely worth a read if you enjoy this type of novel. I'm almost ashamed to admit that I haven't read Stella Gibbons's other, better-known book, Cold Comfort Farm; a problem that I should remedy as soon as possible.
on August 13, 2010
I was glad to get my hands on a copy of this book. Unlike Cold Comfort Farm, however (which I read over and over again), I probably won't re-read this one. I didn't warm up to any of the characters. Still, Gibbons' wit and humor shines through in places, and there are garden parties, a memorable dress, moonlit drives, and holidays at seaside resorts - so if you like the 1930s, the language, settings and atmosphere of the novel will be of interest, anyway!
on August 22, 2010
I read this book because I have long loved "Cold Comfort" and was curious to see what else Ms Gibbons wrote. It is a romance, a story centrally concerned about the pairing off of men and women, which is a genre I've never really had much thirst for. I'm afraid that all the comments here comparing it to fairy tales and "The Tempest" left me half expecting some fantasy elements in the story, but though the comparisons are not inapt, it is not in that sense that they are meant. There is no fairy godmother in this Cinderella story. This is a story of fairly ordinary things happening to fairly ordinary people. It's also not a wild parody like "Cold Comfort." No legs fall off cows and the sukebind does not bloom. But there is plenty of quiet humor. Ms. Gibbons views every character, rich or poor, clever or (mostly) dimwitted, Capitalist or Communist, with a sharp critical eye, but somehow also finds something lovable about every single one. It's not a must-read classic like "Cold Comfort", but I liked it pretty well, and enjoyed seeing what kind of writer Stella Gibbons matured into.
on April 7, 2013
Stella Gibbons wrote in the late 1930s of a life that is about to disappear. Reading this delightful novel in the light of the shadow of the war adds to the pleasure of seeing a beautiful moment in time at the end of an age.
Nobody is flawless in this novel, & that's what makes it so fine! The heroine is a shopgirl of great heart but minimal understanding, her family is a mess, her would-be lover is far from perfect but it all comes right at the end in fine style -as we knew it would. Great story, understandable if not always lovable characters & terrific fun throughout. I wish Stella Gibbons could give us more & more, but alas! SHE is no more!
on September 15, 2014
From the lady who brought us Cold Comfort Farm comes a slightly more serious, but no less sarcastic, novel. Gibbon has the happy ability, shared by so few (Dickens and Austen come to mind), of being able to deliver a Work of Literature in a way that feels more like sitting in a sunbeam eating fairy floss.
There's no Flora Post in this one, but it's still populated with eccentric and memorable characters. There's Mr Wither, the patriarch, who "liked to feel money on all sides of him, like a stout fence"; his wife, of whom we are told, "Mrs Wither came in, but he took no notice of her because he had seen her before"; their elder daughter Madge, who wondered, "Who'd want a baby when they could have a dog?"; younger daughter Tina, who at 35 read a book on feminine psychology, looked into her soul, and discovered that she wanted to be sensible, but not as much as she wanted the family's (much younger) chauffeur; and Viola, the young widowed daughter-in-law, who "did not look quite a lady, which was natural; as she was not one." Between all the zingers there are some taut observations about the nature of happiness and family relationships, and it all adds up to a proper treasure of a novel.
on November 24, 2013
This is a calm, easy going story about people daring to go after what they want. I say "calm" because it is a gentle and sometimes slow story. Sprinkled throughout are touches of Stella Gibbons' great humor. I didn't want to miss those - but at times the action was so slow I was tempted to skim.
We are presented with various groups of people: 1) The ones who always do what they should, follow standard, act appropriately. 2) People who dare to cross the lines of society and challenge norms, people who do what they want regardless of the consequences. 3) the peripheral characters who are caught in the crossfire
This is an easy going story with touches of Gibbons' dry wit. If you'd like to read a title with that humor in the forefront, read Cold Comfort Farm. Both books are good, it just depends what you're looking for.
on December 5, 2010
How anyone could give this book any less than five glowing stars eludes me!
If a person is intuitive at all about human nature,and/or the British Class system, they would love this book.
I only have time to read about an hour each day, and as I read, I could hardly make myself put the book down. Even though this was written in the first quarter of the 20th century, and, by today's standards, may seem to be a bit plodding and overly detailed, all of the writing is necessary to set the mood, and, interestingly, tobuild up a certain kind of suspense.
I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys amusing insight into human nature.
This is far superior to "Cold Comfort Farm"; much more discerning and interesting!
on January 17, 2015
Was looking for something different, a throw back, if you will. While the book starts slow, it builds and builds until I found myself laughing and rooting for Tina and Viola. The wit and sarcasm are well done and in the end this book stands firmly on its own apart from CCF. I am putting Stella into my bucket of favorite women writers alongside Connie Willis (bellwether and To Say Nothing of the Dog), Dodie Smith(I Capture the Castle), Elizabeth Gaskell(North and South), and Lady Jane Austen (Persuasion).