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COLD COMFORT FARM by STELLA GIBBONS

Cold Comfort Farm is a comic novel by English author Stella Gibbons, published in 1932. It parodies the romanticised, sometimes doom-laden accounts of rural life popular at the time, by writers such as Mary Webb. Gibbons was working for the Evening Standard in 1928 when they decided to serialise Webb's first novel, The Golden Arrow, and Gibbons was given the job of summarising the plot of earlier instalments. Other novelists in the tradition parodied by Cold Comfort Farm are D. H. Lawrence, Sheila Kaye-Smith and Thomas Hardy; and going further back, Mary E Mann and the Brontė sisters. Cold Comfort Farm won the Femina Vie Heureuse Prize for 1933. In 2003, the novel was listed at number 88 on the BBC's survey The Big Read.

Following the death of her parents, the book's heroine, Flora Poste, finds she is possessed "of every art and grace save that of earning her own living." She decides to take advantage of the fact that "no limits are set, either by society or one's own conscience, to the amount one may impose on one's relatives", and settles on visiting her distant relatives at the isolated Cold Comfort Farm in the fictional village of Howling in Sussex. The inhabitants of the farm: Aunt Ada Doom, the Starkadders, and their extended family and workers, feel obliged to take her in to atone for an unspecified wrong once done to her father.

As is typical in a certain genre of romantic 19th-century and early 20th-century literature, each of the farm's inhabitants has some long-festering emotional problem caused by ignorance, hatred, or fear, and the farm is badly run. Flora, being a level-headed, urban woman, determines that she must apply modern common sense to their problems and help them adapt to the 20th century. (from wikipedia)

About the Movie of "Cold Comfort Farm"


I've experienced the delights of Cold Comfort Farm in three different forms. The first was a BBC radio production in which the entire book was narrated by the incomparable Kenneth Williams. Oh yes, all the voices too! Then I had to read the book, and fell in love with it all over again. Finally I bought the dvd of the TV movie, starring Kate Beckinsale as the meddling Flora, "Robert Poste's child".

I enjoyed Stalla Gibbon's extraordinary innovations in her novel. She set it sometime after 1946, although it was published in 1932. Her fictional England is at war with Nicaragua. Her people use "television phones", an early form of Skype! Instead of cars, small planes are used to travel around; the mail is even delivered by a flying postman.

Two squels were published at long intervals after the original novel. "Christmas at Cold Comfort Farm" is a short story, published as part of a collection. It is a prequel to Flora's arrival at the farm. "Conference at Cold Comfort Farm" takes place 15 years later, when "All is not well. Flora finds the farm transformed into a twee haven filled with Toby jugs and peasant pottery, and rooms labelled 'Quiete Retreate' and 'Greate laundrie'. It is, Flora winces, 'exactly like being locked in the Victoria and Albert Museum after closing time'. Worse, the farm is hosting a conference of the pretentious International Thinkers Group: a group made up of the 'sadistic owl' Mr Peccavi, loathsome Mr Mybug and the overpowering Mrs Ernestine Thump. And worst of all, there are no Starkadders at Cold Comfort Farm. All the he-cousins have gone abroad to make their fortunes and the female cousins are having a pretty thin time of it. Once again the sensible Flora decides to take the situation in hand."