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Cold Comfort Farm
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New School Classics- 1900-1999 > Cold Comfort Farm - SPOILERS

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Melanti | 2386 comments This thread is for a full discussion of our August 2018 New School Group Read selection, Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons.

Discuss any spoilers in this thread.


Kathleen | 3672 comments About half way, there's a scene where Flora is talking to Claud on the phone, and he can see her. It says "She could not look at him, because public telephones were not fitted with television dials."

I didn't realize this was written as if taking place in the future--according to Wikipedia, in about 1946. Don't know if I missed something in the beginning about this. An interesting twist!


siriusedward (elenaraphael) | 2011 comments Started reading this.Onto second chapter.


Wreade1872 | 790 comments Kathleen wrote: "About half way, there's a scene where Flora is talking to Claud on the phone, and he can see her. It says "She could not look at him, because public telephones were not fitted with television dials..."

Yeah thats the only weird sci-fi bit don't know why she put that in there :) .


message 5: by siriusedward (last edited Aug 07, 2018 10:58AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

siriusedward (elenaraphael) | 2011 comments the descriptions are funny..the way its written in a melodramatic way..with exaggerations and flourishes is Lol.. enjoying it..


Marilyn | 699 comments Favorite line from the first 100 pages:

"[Victorian novels] were the only kind of novel you could read while you were eating an apple."

A close second: "'there'll be no butter in hell!'"


Kathleen | 3672 comments I agree about the flourishes. It doesn't read real smooth, but it is lots of fun.

Love that first quote especially, Marilyn. Here's another one I liked:
"Nature is all very well in her place, but she must not be allowed to make things untidy."


Melanti | 2386 comments Kathleen wrote: "I didn't realize this was written as if taking place in the future--according to Wikipedia, in about 1946. Don't know if I missed something in the beginning about this. An interesting twist!
..."


Oh! I had no idea! I was wondering why there was so many references to cars and flying!


siriusedward (elenaraphael) | 2011 comments Marilyn wrote: "Favorite line from the first 100 pages:

"[Victorian novels] were the only kind of novel you could read while you were eating an apple."

A close second: "'there'll be no butter in hell!'""


Now, I get it..Amos's hellfire speech was funny..but well written..


Kathleen | 3672 comments siriusedward wrote: "Great article on CCF

https://www.theguardian.com/books/201..."


Fantastic article--thank you Elena! I agree, the book needs to be taken as sarcasm, but very true about the humanity that comes through. I wasn't expecting that from this book.


siriusedward (elenaraphael) | 2011 comments i think so too..iy must not be taken too seriously..just as a fun but thought provoking, in a crtitical way...of the prevailing trends as well as our own preference for reading certain books with certain cliche characters and cliche situations ..and not in a demeaning way..


siriusedward (elenaraphael) | 2011 comments What was the nasty thing she saw in the woodshed?
Rape/sex/something like that?that made her marriage hell..and made her loathe her children being bought to bed?


message 14: by siriusedward (last edited Aug 09, 2018 09:52AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

siriusedward (elenaraphael) | 2011 comments
living from meal to meal (Monday, pork; Tuesday,
beef; Wednesday, toad-in-the-hole; Thursday, mutton; Friday, veal;
Saturday, curry; Sunday, cutlets)


:p


siriusedward (elenaraphael) | 2011 comments Did you know theres a "higher common sense" and "pensees" in Goodreads..with 0 ratings.?
I thought it was some obscure book, initially...then realized she must be making fun of that type of books..


siriusedward (elenaraphael) | 2011 comments I was really worried that they would not be able to set out for the ball..what with grandma getting ready to come down,quite unexpectedly..?I was very worried if they would be stopped..


Kathleen | 3672 comments siriusedward wrote: "Did you know theres a "higher common sense" and "pensees" in Goodreads..with 0 ratings.?
I thought it was some obscure book, initially...then realized she must be making fun of that type of books.."


Oh my! I would so read Higher Common Sense, but I did some google research and found nothing, so assumed it was her making fun, as you say.

I love how she never reveals what Aunt Ada saw in the woodshed. I wondered if it had to do with the goat …!


message 18: by siriusedward (last edited Aug 09, 2018 01:54PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

siriusedward (elenaraphael) | 2011 comments oh..maybe thats it...the goat and the wrong done to Robert Poste.. :P


Melanti | 2386 comments Finally finished.
I can the parody aspect on an academic level, but just in general it wasn't very funny, IMO. I can see why most of you like it, but it's just not my style of humor. I found Flora to be rather obnoxious.

Maybe if I'd read more of the style of novel she's making fun of, I would have enjoyed it more.

Though now that I'm done, I'm wondering why it's set in the future.


siriusedward (elenaraphael) | 2011 comments Maybe Flora's obnoxious.ness is in itself a mocking?A mocking of the looking down on rural types by the sophisticates?


Kaylee (kaylee66) | 50 comments I think I'm with you, Melanti; I did appreciate the parody, and I can *see* the humor but didn't enjoy it very much, personally. Still, it was okay for me. :)

I totally did not pick up on it being set in the future! I have no idea why the author would do that when it has absolutely no bearing on the story. Oh, well. *shrugs*


Kaylee (kaylee66) | 50 comments siriusedward wrote: "Maybe Flora's obnoxious.ness is in itself a mocking?A mocking of the looking down on rural types by the sophisticates?"

Yes, that was my impression. At first I didn't like Flora because of this, but when it appears that she is actually having a positive influence on her relatives and is able to help them find happiness according to each one's disposition, I revised my opinion.

It might have started from a place of "I know better than these uneducated rural types" but I think it takes a high degree of empathy to take the time to get to know people and help them get what *they* want out of life, instead of just pushing onto them what you think is best for them. So I ended up liking Flora for that.


message 23: by Sara, Old School Classics (new) - rated it 3 stars

Sara (phantomswife) | 4734 comments Mod
I am also of your mind, Melanti, I see the parody and the farce, but it isn't my kind of fun. I am harder to please with comedy than I am with drama for some reason. Perhaps my sense of humor is underdeveloped.


message 24: by Darren (last edited Aug 20, 2018 02:32AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Darren (dazburns) | 1843 comments Sara - you're right, everybody's sense of humour is different - could you give us an example of a book that you found really funny?


message 25: by Sara, Old School Classics (new) - rated it 3 stars

Sara (phantomswife) | 4734 comments Mod
Well, I kept thinking of Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Ernest, which was a farce that made me laugh. I loved both the foolishness of the plot and the sharpness of the writer.

I have friends who think The Three Stooges are hilarious. I never enjoyed them, even as a kid and readily admit that most sitcoms leave me completely cold. But, I can watch When Harry Met Sally time and again and crack up at the scene in the restaurant. I think what makes us laugh is much harder to define than what makes us cry--especially for me.


Kathleen | 3672 comments Well, Wilde is special, but I enjoy silly humor too. I never liked The Three Stooges and slapstick stuff, but I love Monty Python, which I think has to be described as just silliness.

I didn’t enjoy this book for the humor, really. I enjoyed it for the character many people seem to dislike: Flora. If this had been a serious book, I would have hated her for her snobby busybodyness. But I liked how the author caricatured her at the beginning, and then slowly gave her more depth, and in the end I could appreciate her special powers.


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Sara (phantomswife) | 4734 comments Mod
Funny, Kathleen, but I love Monty Python, but isn't that silliness that is clever? And, I used to watch Benny Hill and sometimes end up with tears streaming, and who could call that anything but silliness. As I say, hard to define.


Kathleen | 3672 comments I think you may have hit on it with the word clever. I think I find different things clever at different times (or maybe sometimes I don't care if they're clever?), so naturally people will differ in what they find clever maybe.

I thought Mad Magazine was very clever, but when I saw an episode of Mad TV, I found myself saying over and over, "That's just stupid."


Darren (dazburns) | 1843 comments plays, films and TV all have more immediate/visual/audio impact though, making for a more "instinctive" reaction
writing humorous books is a different skill I think, where the reader has to process whole sentences/passages together, and there is a danger of not seeing the wood for the trees
(not sure if I'm explaining myself very well here!)


message 30: by Sara, Old School Classics (new) - rated it 3 stars

Sara (phantomswife) | 4734 comments Mod
I agree, Darren. I'm not sure if it would be harder or easier to write for a medium that is visual or to write books, but I do think you are right that the skill set is different and the effect as well.

I think it is easier to make a group of people cry than to make them laugh. Perhaps our experience of what is tragic is more universal than our experience of what is comedic in life. To be funny, a skit almost has to have some element of poking fun at the society we live in, but it is very easy to cross the line between humor and meanness, and the second it begins to feel mean, or like someone is bashing a group because they feel superior to them, it loses its humor completely. And then, some people are born with a funny bone and some people never develop one.


message 31: by Suzy (new) - rated it 5 stars

Suzy (goodreadscomsuzy_hillard) | 63 comments Hi all - I've enjoyed seeing the diversity of perspectives about this book. I read it three years ago and loved it. I went back to my review to see what I thought then. I remarked at the time that I loved the movie and wondered aloud if I would have liked the book as much if I hadn't seen the movie first. I also know I had in mind that it was written in 1932 and was written as a spoof of a type of popular rural literature. That helped relate to it a little easier, but all in all, I think seeing the movie was what did it for me. What's not to like if Rufus Sewel is in it? :)


Christopher (Donut) | 179 comments Suzy wrote: " I also know I had in mind that it was written in 1932 and was written as a spoof of a type of popular rural literature. ..."

Let's not beat around the bush- it's straight up D. H. Lawrence that she's spoofing, right?


Melanti | 2386 comments Christopher wrote: "Let's not beat around the bush- it's straight up D. H. Lawrence that she's spoofing, right? .."

That general style, at least.

Though I think her main focus is Mary Webb.


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I’ve just finished it. I have to say that although I voted for this book that when the time came to read it I wasn’t much looking forward to it. But it was available at the Library so I jumped in just before the month’s end. I’m so glad I did. It was such a lovely feel-good spoof. I found the whole falling in love with your cousin thing very creepy but hey, it was good enough for Queen Vic.
Some of the vocab Gibbons used I found to be hilarious and I was so impressed with how well she could write humour - I think it must definitely be the hardest genre to write well. I wonder why she is not more widely known. And the novel too; I think people might be more familiar with the movie. But I am so glad to have read this - thanks to this group!


Christopher (Donut) | 179 comments I just finished today, too.

My impression is that things went much too easy for Flora from, say, the time of the party, when Elfine gets engaged.

There is zero real conflict in the story from that point on.

AND the gags start falling flat. (Like Aunt Ada hitting everyone with the Dairy Farmer and Cowkeepers Quarterly.. over and over.. most of the later gags are repetition "for humor's sake," Mr, Mybug choking on cake... for pages and pages. )

Never mind the "American slang" that the Hollywood guy "talks."

Nonetheless, I liked it.


Melanti | 2386 comments I'm glad you guys enjoyed it!

Humor is just one of those hit or miss things for me. Sometimes I love it and other times it just annoys me.

In her review, Nente says it's like Northanger Abbey in reverse. That seems like a pretty apt description to me.


I've been pondering the reason for the future time frame for this. Could Gibbons have been trying to heighten the contrast between the two worlds? The ultra modern Flora versus her ultra old fashioned relatives? One's so advanced they catch flying taxis everywhere while the other is so backward they wash their dishes with sticks?


message 37: by siriusedward (last edited Aug 29, 2018 03:09PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

siriusedward (elenaraphael) | 2011 comments Have you read any books by Mary Webb or one of the authors she makes fun of ,Melanti....?

It does provide a good contrast does it not..The ultra Chic Urbane and Sophisticate and The very Rural Backward and Ignorant...
Maybe she is making fun of both types..it felt like that to me..


Melanti | 2386 comments siriusedward wrote: "Have you read any books by Mary Webb or one of the authors she makes fun of ,Melanti....? ..."

I have not. Well, not Webb. I've read D.H. Lawrence before because he was a New School pick last year.

I hadn't heard of Webb until I started reading about this book, but she was apparently rather popular back in the day.


Kathleen | 3672 comments The jokes weren't that funny, but I enjoyed the silliness of it. I agree with Elena, that she was making fun of both types. Maybe the futuristic stuff did play into that. Like, the sophisticated can't do any better at improving the world than flying taxis?

Washing their dishes with sticks … have to say, that still makes me laugh.

I loved the mystery around Aunt Ada (Aunt Ada Doom!). I'm not familiar with the novels of Mary Webb or DH Lawrence, unfortunately. Does anyone know if the crazy Aunt is a common trope?


message 40: by Melanti (last edited Aug 29, 2018 05:17PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Melanti | 2386 comments Kathleen wrote: " Does anyone know if the crazy Aunt is a common trope? ..."

I'm not sure if crazy aunts are but I wouldn't be surprised if mysterious secrets dramatically revealed at a critical moment were.


Christopher (Donut) | 179 comments When it comes to setting the book in the future, this may be a 30s "trope," so to speak.

Vile Bodies is also set in a future which is not very futuristic.

This is just speculation, but setting it in the future instead of the present may be a way to preserve 'light-heartedness' at a time when the literary milieu demanded 'relevance' for anything set in the present, aka- Stalinist socialist realism.

It's funny that this was the heyday of 'screwball comedies' in the movies, which didn't get 'earnest' until WW II, but the movies always were a decade or so behind the trend in novels.

A quote from The Thirties: A Dream Revolved

To those involved in the politics of the Popular Front, however, such fanciful or metaphysical approaches seemed totally unacceptable. What place was there in the orderly equalitarian society of the future, a society in which the artist would work with the methodical precision of an engineer, for those who declared themselves in favour of the irrational, who praised Sade as surrealist in sadism and Baudelaire as surrealist in morals? The kind of ‘freedom’ aimed at by the Surrealists seemed to such people essentially reactionary: their art obscene or unintelligible, their politics dubious. ‘They are the equivalent in art of the Fascist gangs in politics,’ said J B Priestley. ‘They stand for violence and neurotic unreason. They are truly decadent.’ More calmly A L Lloyd analysed the movement in Left Review: ‘If Surrealism were revolutionary it could be of use. But Surrealism is not revolutionary, because its lyricism is socially irresponsible… Surrealism is a particularly subtle form of fake revolution.’

(apologies if this is too far off topic)


Kathleen | 3672 comments Ooh, interesting. Socially irresponsible lyricism. Hmm. I think you're onto something about the 30's, Christopher.

And I think you're right about the revealing of secrets, Melanti. Too bad though. I was kind of hoping there were a bunch of crazy Aunts out there in these books I haven't yet read. (I think I had in mind Little Women's Aunt March, and maybe even my favorite crazy aunt Betsey Trotwood...)


message 43: by Amy (new) - rated it 4 stars

Amy | 13 comments I enjoyed Cold Comfort Farm a lot more than I thought I would at first. I went into it not knowing anything about it (though in the process of looking up some of the words I now know are made up, I discovered the book was a parody). I've never read either of the authors this novel was supposed to be spoofing. I guess the impression I had was a sendup of gothic romance where the heroine decides to go about fixing all of the ridiculous stuff that make the novel gothic in the first place - up to and including taming the crazy-lady upstairs.

The descriptions were something else!

"The land, the iron furrows of frosted earth under the rain-lust, the fecund spears of rain, the swelling, slow burst of seed-sheaths, the slow smell of cows and cry of cows, the trampling bride-path of the bull in his hour. All his, his..."

"Will you have some bread and butter?" asked Flora.

I think that's what I wound up liking about the book was Flora's over-the-top pragmatism contrasted against the over-the-top craziness of the Starkadders.

It kind of seemed like the author's intent was to spoof happily ever after endings, too, with everything being magically resolved, and Flora in her melancholy realizing she was in love with her cousin after all. Plot wrapped up in a tidy little package and the "something narsty" and Robert Poste's goat incident left up to the imagination.

I missed the fact that the story was supposed to be set in the future. Seth kept mentioning "talkies" so I thought it was supposed to be contemporary. I noticed stuff that was odd - like the phone call where Claud could see Flora, but I dismissed it as him being able to imagine her, I guess. And if the taxi was flying, I missed that, too, and didn't know what to make of the Anglo-Nicaraguan war reference. Mr. Neck mentioned looking for the new Clark Gable or Gary Cooper, too...which should have been another clue. They would have both just barely become stars when this was written. I feel a little silly for not realizing!

Every time I load the dishwasher from now on I'm going to be thinking about clettering the dishes...


Kaylee (kaylee66) | 50 comments Christopher, I always enjoy learning about the historical context of the books we read. For me, that's one of the best parts of these discussions, so I appreciate your comment and quote. I think it's both relevant and very interesting.


message 45: by Darren (last edited Aug 31, 2018 02:47AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Darren (dazburns) | 1843 comments Amy wrote: "...Flora's over-the-top pragmatism contrasted against the over-the-top craziness of the Starkadders...."

I'm wondering if Richard Curtis and Ben Elton got any inspiration from this when writing Blackadder...?


message 46: by [deleted user] (new)

Just finished this. I read Mary Webb's Precious Bane before and I have to admit Webb does a far better job of portraying rural life. Although I admit, I am ambivalent with humorous themes in general.


Kathleen | 3672 comments I think you hit on it, Helen. It was that loving tone. I wouldn't have thought I'd like Flora, but by the end, I liked them all.


siriusedward (elenaraphael) | 2011 comments Me too.


message 49: by Bob, Short Story Classics (last edited Sep 27, 2018 10:48AM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Bob | 4816 comments Mod
I can’t remember the last time I started a book and did not finish it, but I don’t think I can finish this one. I have been reading it off and on for 2-1/2 weeks and have only managed to get a little past halfway. I have found nothing to grab my attention. I just can't get into the story. As time passes the urge to reach and pick it up is getting weaker, and the last few times when I have pick it up I can hardly read 5 pages before I am asleep with the book still in my hands. I won’t completely quit trying until I have to return it to the library, but I think this one is going to be a 1 Star DNF.


message 50: by Sara, Old School Classics (new) - rated it 3 stars

Sara (phantomswife) | 4734 comments Mod
That happens to me now and then, Bob. I used to fight it, but now I just let it go and spend that energy on something that does appeal to me.


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