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Cold Comfort Farm
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Group reads > Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons (February 2019)

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message 1: by Nigeyb (last edited Dec 06, 2018 02:30AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Nigeyb | 8542 comments Mod
Our February 2019 theme is humour.


Many consider February to be the most depressing month of the year so what better than a group read we hope will make us smile, chuckle, laugh and maybe even guffaw.

Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons won the group read poll

Here's the blurb....

Winner of the 1933 Femina Vie Heureuse Prize, Cold Comfort Farm is a wickedly funny portrait of British rural life in the 1930s. Flora Poste, a recently orphaned socialite, moves in with her country relatives, the gloomy Starkadders of Cold Comfort Farm, and becomes enmeshed in a web of violent emotions, despair, and scheming, until Flora manages to set things right.




This discussion will open in February 2019


Nigeyb | 8542 comments Mod
So it's one day early, but that's the way we roll here at RTTC.


Let's discuss Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons which won the group read poll for February 2019.

Thanks again to Roman Clodia for the nomination.

I'm looking forward to this one.





Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 4263 comments Mod
Fabulous cover, Nigeyb. I've read and enjoyed this in the past, but am ready to revisit once I finish Wigs on the Green.

The edition I'll be reading has this cover:




Roman Clodia | 4165 comments Mod
I started this last night and am finding it *hilarious*! There are some lines that are positively Austen-esque in the first section set in London, but it really ramps up when the scene transfers to CC Farm - the sexualised heavings of the throbbing porridge! I'll never look at Quaker Oats in the same way again... ;))


message 5: by Hugh (last edited Jan 31, 2019 01:07AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Hugh (bodachliath) | 685 comments I am not sure I'll find time for a re-read but I'll certainly follow the discussion. The edition I read (which must date from before 2003, when my complete reading list starts) has a cover I don't like much, so I won't try to enlarge it:
Cold Comfort Farm  by Stella Gibbons


message 6: by Nigeyb (last edited Jan 31, 2019 01:46AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Nigeyb | 8542 comments Mod
Glad to discover it has started so well for you Roman Clodia. I'll be getting underway today.

Hugh wrote: "The edition I read (which must date from before 2003, when my complete reading list starts) has a cover I don't like much, so I won't try to enlarge it"

That is terrible. More like a kids's book.

My edition also has a surprising cover, and not one I like, and which would seem more suited to a Pan Horror than a comedic novel.....




Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 4263 comments Mod
I see what you mean about that cover! What do you think of my pig cover, Nigeyb? I thought it was a bit bizarre and it also looks like a modern farm building behind it!


Nigeyb | 8542 comments Mod
The pig cover also feels inappropriate to me Judy, compounded by the modern film building in the background

This is the best so far...




Jill (dogbotsmum) | 546 comments Finished this last night, and although I liked it a lot ,I can't say I found it funny. Flora, for me, was the biggest schemer of all of them.


message 10: by Nigeyb (last edited Jan 31, 2019 03:28AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Nigeyb | 8542 comments Mod
Page 12 and already had my first chuckle courtesy of Mrs Smiling and her fifteen gentlemen madly in love with her, and her collection of brassieres...


She was an authority on the cut, fit, colour, construction and proper functioning of brassieres: and her friends had learned that her interest, even in moments of extreme emotional or physical distress, could be aroused and her composure restored by the hasty utterance of the phrase:

“I saw a brassiere today, Mary, that would have interested you”


😀😍🤩🤠🎉


Roman Clodia | 4165 comments Mod
Haha, I loved the brassieres too!


message 12: by Val (last edited Jan 31, 2019 04:22AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Val | 1710 comments Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons
I can't find your pig cover, but this one looks appropriate.


message 13: by Jill (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jill (dogbotsmum) | 546 comments Now that I thought was just written for it's shock value considering when it was written. Her "carrying on' with dozens of men and sorting them out, was more funny to me.


Nigeyb | 8542 comments Mod
That was funny too, and possibly more shocking than her obsession with underwear, given the era.

Val, I now realise what I thought was the pig cover is, in fact, a cow. It's in the first post. Is that the one you meant Judy? Or is there another cover?


message 15: by Judy (new) - rated it 4 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 4263 comments Mod
Sorry, I meant the one I posted which I failed to spot Nigeyb had posted already - I meant cow but for some reason typed pig!


message 16: by Val (new) - rated it 3 stars

Val | 1710 comments There is a lot of variety in the covers.
This one is too idyllic:
Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons


message 17: by Val (new) - rated it 3 stars

Val | 1710 comments Jill wrote: "Now that I thought was just written for it's shock value considering when it was written. Her "carrying on' with dozens of men and sorting them out, was more funny to me."
I'm not sure what sort of book she is sending up with that, but it is quite funny.


message 18: by [deleted user] (new)

I started reading this a couple of days ago and I am finding it very funny but maybe that is because I read too much Thomas Hardy and D H Lawrence in my youth.


message 19: by Judy (last edited Feb 01, 2019 02:33AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 4263 comments Mod
I remember thinking some bits were a good send-up of Mary Webb - I have read a couple by her a long time ago.


Nigeyb | 8542 comments Mod
Most of the literary references are flying high over my head but I am still enjoying it on its own terms. I can imagine Stella Gibbons chuckling to herself at some of the lines she came up with.

Definitely one to savour.


Roman Clodia | 4165 comments Mod
Yes, I was thinking Mary Webb (though have only read her Gone to Earth) and DH Lawrence in Seth's brooding mumblings about blood-lust and throbbings! Wuthering Heights gets a name-check, too.

But, as Nigeyb says, the tropes of rural melodrama are well enough known for this to stand alone. And I'm loving Gibbons' equivalent of Michelin stars for standout passages ;))


Nigeyb | 8542 comments Mod
The porridge scene is magnificent


Particularly also liked Judith's query about who Seth was with the previous night...

....Moll at the Mill? Violet at the Vicarage? Ivy at the Ironmongery?

Splendid

And how could Stella write a paragraph like this with a straight face....

Judith Starkadder made an inpatient movement. Her large hands had a quality which made them seem to sketch vast horizons with their slightest gesture. She looked a woman without boundaries as she stood wrapped in a crimson shawl to protect her bitter, magnificent shoulders from the splintery cold of the early air. She seemed fitted for any stage, however enormous.

Here's a weird comparison, it's really reminding me of the classic Mel Brooks film Young Frankenstein

Anyone else see the comparison?


Lady Clementina ffinch-ffarowmore | 331 comments Nigeyb wrote: "The pig cover also feels inappropriate to me Judy, compounded by the modern film building in the background

This is the best so far...

"


I like this cover- with the characters.


Lady Clementina ffinch-ffarowmore | 331 comments Let me what I can remember of this one-it's been a fair while since I read it.


Nigeyb | 8542 comments Mod
This has really gone up a gear since Flora has arrived at the farm.


I am laughing regularly. The contrast between Flora and the other inhabitants of the farm is comedy gold.


message 26: by Judy (new) - rated it 4 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 4263 comments Mod
Roman Clodia wrote: "Yes, I was thinking Mary Webb (though have only read her Gone to Earth) and DH Lawrence in Seth's brooding mumblings about blood-lust and throbbings! Wuthering Heights gets a name-c..."

Oh yes, Lawrence too! I also read Gone to Earth by Webb, as well as Precious Bane, and came to the conclusion she wasn't really for me. I think Cold Comfort Farm is very close to her world!


Roman Clodia | 4165 comments Mod
Oh yes, of course, Precious Bane - I'd forgotten that. Gibbons does a brilliant job with Elfine in sending up those fey, innocent, girl-women characters, with their trembling lips, doomed to be crushed by some man... :))


Roman Clodia | 4165 comments Mod
Nigeyb wrote: "This has really gone up a gear since Flora has arrived at the farm.


I am laughing regularly. The contrast between Flora and the other inhabitants of the farm is comedy gold."


Isn't it? Adam and his thorn twig to clean the porridge plates... ;)


Nigeyb | 8542 comments Mod
That's the part I've just read. Classic.


message 30: by Val (new) - rated it 3 stars

Val | 1710 comments Elfine starts off as very much a Mary Webb character, but apparently she just needs a makeover and to pretend to be stupid to win the aristocratic husband.


message 31: by Anne (new)

Anne Wellman (goodreadscomannewellman) | 14 comments Roman Clodia wrote: "Oh yes, of course, Precious Bane - I'd forgotten that. Gibbons does a brilliant job with Elfine in sending up those fey, innocent, girl-women characters, with their trembling lips, doomed to be cru..."

Am I remembering rightly that CCF is set in the future? I recall being confused by this when I first read it at a too young age - also by what 'something nasty in the woodshed' actually was...


Rosina (rosinarowantree) | 215 comments Anne wrote: "Am I remembering rightly that CCF is set in the future? "

I was confused by this. In my Kindle version Mrs Smiling rejects a bra 'because it 'was just a variant on the 'Venus' design made by Waber Brothers in 1938'. I did wonder if this was a transcription error, because I can't see why it would be set six-plus years in the future. (which would take it into wartime, but of course the author wouldn't have known that when writing it)


Brian Reynolds | 391 comments I just started reading Cold Comfort Farm, and the intro states that the book was generally described at the time as "a 'wicked parody' of the rural novels of Mary Webb (Precious Bane, The Golden Arrow), which were immensely popular in Britain between the wars..."


message 34: by Val (new) - rated it 3 stars

Val | 1710 comments Another author she is said to parody is Sheila Kaye-Smith. Has anyone here read her books?


Nigeyb | 8542 comments Mod
I'm not familiar with Sheila Kaye-Smith or indeed Mary Webb


In message 22 I said CCF is really reminding me of the classic Mel Brooks film Young Frankenstein

I think it's the knowing winks to the reader (or viewer in the case of Young Frankenstein) which help to make it such fun

Back to Sheila Kaye-Smith and Mary Webb, does a familiarity with their work provide another level of humour and appreciation?


Lady Clementina ffinch-ffarowmore | 331 comments Nigeyb wrote: "Back to Sheila Kaye-Smith and Mary Webb, does a familiarity with their work provide another level of humour and appreciation? ..."

I was wondering about that too--I was looking up some notes I'd taken when reading the book a few years ago (for a discussion), and one of the things I'd noted was I haven't read any of the books she's parodied--and probably that's why I couldn't appreciate it as more its basic comic nature with exaggerated characters with exaggerated names and such.


message 37: by Val (new) - rated it 3 stars

Val | 1710 comments I think parodies work better if one has some familiarity with the originals, but I don't think it needs to be those two authors in particular, pretty much anything set in the countryside would do.


Rosina (rosinarowantree) | 215 comments The authors and genre are also portrayed (parodied?) in Michael Innes' Stop Press, where a novelist apparently persuades a local countryman to hang puppies, so she can fully describe the scene in her next work, and in To Love and Be Wise by Josephine Tey, where one of the suspects is living the life of poverty (mainly weighing on his poor wife) for literary experience.

I am also reminded of J Peasemold Gruntfuttock from Round the Horne, and Rambling Syd Rumpo had the same penchant for using words (real or invented) in his ditties:
"In Hackney Wick there lives a lass,
Whose grommets would I woggle,
Her gander-parts none can surpass
And her posset makes me boggle!"


Roman Clodia | 4165 comments Mod
I agree, so many of these tropes can be recognised even if we haven't read the 1930s rural novels. For example, Amos makes me think of Joseph, the old servant in Wuthering Heights who can't speak without reciting swathes of the bible.

Is Gibbons taking her lead from Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey? Austen isn't as dedicated to the sending up of gothic and sensation novels but does have a lot of fun with what happens when a characters treats 'real life' as if it were a sensation novel.

Gibbons is sort of doing the opposite by putting Flora with her 'Manual of Higher Common Sense' into a setting where everyone else is acting out rural gothic.


Roman Clodia | 4165 comments Mod
Has anyone spotted an antecedent for 'something nasty in the woodshed'? The only thing that came to mind for me is the end of The Go-Between - though surely that wasn't a woodshed?!


message 41: by Judy (new) - rated it 4 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 4263 comments Mod
I'm not sure what Gibbons was parodying with "something nasty in the woodshed", but have just found a page about how the phrase passed into the language after she coined it, and even became the title of a mystery novel. This page also includes a photo of Stella Gibbons, and mentions that the book is a parody of the "Loam-and-Love-child school of fiction", which is a new one on me!

https://wordhistories.net/2017/08/17/...


message 42: by Jill (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jill (dogbotsmum) | 546 comments I had heard this phrase said many times, but didn't know where it came from. Usually, when someone acted stupid it was used to sum up their reason for for acting that way. To show they were losing their mind. I asked my husband about it and he said he had never heard it,and yet we were both brought up in the same vicinity. So I am grateful to you finding link


Rosina (rosinarowantree) | 215 comments My view of the 'something nasty in the woodshed' is that it is based on some popular psychological explanation for mental perturbation in adults - that it's caused by an accidental exposure to 'something nasty' as a child, including finding adults having sex in the woodshed. I'm not sure if it's Freudian, although most of these things are!


Rosina (rosinarowantree) | 215 comments I am sure that I read Cold Comfort Farm many years ago, but I have been suffering from jamais lu, as I really cannot remember that it was set several years in the future. The brassiere designed in 1938, the television/telephone, and the Anglo-Nicaraguan war of 1946 all passed over my head, if I had read it in the past.

I have definitely seen and heard the radio and TV versions, and I am sure they were firmly set in the actual past, possibly not even including light aircraft flitting in and out of the farm.


message 45: by Val (new) - rated it 3 stars

Val | 1710 comments It does sound as if it could be Freudian Rosina, (view spoiler).


Roman Clodia | 4165 comments Mod
... and, of course, Mybug is insistently Freudian: 'the stems reminded Mr Mybug of phallic symbols and the buds made Mr Mybug think of nipples and virgins' - no wonder Flora finds him so tiresome :)


message 47: by Val (last edited Feb 03, 2019 09:18AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Val | 1710 comments I think she might be parodying D. H. Lawrence with Mr 'Mybug'.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q9uVN...


Roman Clodia | 4165 comments Mod
Finished - and really enjoyed this. I hadn't noticed the future dates so thanks for pointing those out. The flurry of planes at the end did make me giggle - but then so much did throughout the book :))


Nigeyb | 8542 comments Mod
I've finished too. I really enjoyed this book. Thanks so much for inspiring me to read it.


Here’s my review


message 50: by Hugh (new) - rated it 5 stars

Hugh (bodachliath) | 685 comments I remember finding it very funny despite knowing almost nothing about the books Gibbons is satirising...


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