Cold Comfort Farm
by Stella Gibbons
This book is supposed to be hilarious. I heard over and over again how funny it was. It’s a tongue-in-cheek look at all those morose “finding oneself in the English countryside” novels. But I just didn’t think it was funny. I felt about this book the way I felt about A Confederacy of Dunces; on paper I should have loved them, but in actually reading them, I couldn’t make myself like them.
The characters in Cold Comfort Farm were too hollow, too fake to enjoy. Flora is a silly orphaned young woman who decides to live for the next 30 years sponging off her relatives. She moves to Cold Comfort Farm in Sussex with the intention of spending a few decades “gathering material” for a book she will one day right.
Once she moves in with her distant relatives, the Starkadders, she starts trying to fix everyone’s lives. She gives her cousin Elfine a makeover and introduces another cousin, Seth, to a movie producer.
The crazy old matriarch of the family spends all of her time shut up in her room telling everyone who comes near her that when she was young, she “saw something nasty in the woodshed.” Ok, we get it, and yet with all that moaning, we never find out what she saw!
Add to that Judith’s wailing and Amos’ preaching and the detestable advances of Maybug and it just didn’t work for me. The entire novel is built around characters you don’t like. I know it’s supposed to be a satire, but I just didn’t enjoy it. It’s one of the few times in my life that I’ve found the movie to be better than the book. The 1995 version is entertaining, but I still didn’t love it.
There are definitely some funny lines, but for such a short book, it really dragged for me. So tell me people, what am I missing?
“My idea of hell is a very large party in a cold room, where everyone has to play hockey properly.”
“One of the disadvantages of almost universal education was the fact that all kinds of persons acquired a familiarity with one’s favorite writers. It gave one a curious feeling; it was like seeing a drunken stranger wrapped in one’s dressing-gown.”