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Cold Comfort Farm

Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons I found this story positively delightful. It is true, what you hear, that it is very put-down-able, but that is something I appreciate about it. And it definitely picks up steam about halfway through. It is about a very sensible girl, who uses her good sense to clean up a family. I think it’s a lot like Polyanna (I’ve only seen the Hayley Mills movie, but I imagine the book has to be pretty similar), but creepy instead of saccharine. It has this P.G. Wodehouse feel of calm irony in the face of disaster, but, then, also, a masculine hostility and danger that Ms. Flora Poste coolly navigates.

I’m usually pretty good with dialect and colloquialisms, but I have to admit those held me up every once in a while here. There is also some . . . magical realism? Or really literal, punny, slap-stick? Or something that caught me off guard every once in a while. But, I thought Ms. Poste’s bitchiness was pretty entertaining and respectable. She’s sort of a lady Henry Higgins. I have this neighbor who is a real busybody. Cartoonish, almost. She’s everywhere, taking pictures of your outdoor maintenance, stopping people from smoking on the HOA property, expressing concern about pipes and roofs and things like that. It’s very off putting, in the same way I imagine management by Flora Poste would be off putting. But, there is also something truly entertaining about it. It’s interesting to watch someone manage other people’s lives. (As long as you can get out of management yourself, or as long as it works out conveniently to you.) And there is this great quote at the end of the book that I think is hilarious, “Like all really strong-minded women, on whom everybody flops, she adored being bossed about.” Ha! I don’t identify with that at all, or think it’s really true, but it’s delightfully organized to think so.

I also think that I benefited (finally!) from my lack of suspense. When people come to me and tell me that they have something they shouldn’t tell me, I think, Holy heck, I hope they don’t tell me. I think I remember the story that made me like this, and, trust me, you don’t want to know it. I saw something nasty in the woodshed. The whole Cold Comfort Farm gang is running around the whole time dropping hints of scandals that Ms. Poste might want to know, and I felt totally fine knowing or not knowing what those were. The main point was watching our lady be sensible and efficient and ironically detached. This worked out well for me because you basically never find out what any of the scandals are or have any of the mysteries resolved. That was pretty hilarious to me. I enjoyed it.

I also appreciated how everyone found their calling or true love because of Ms. Poste’s solicitude. The whole story had this unlikely combination of irony, frank sensuality, slap-stick, creepiness, and Hollywood. I can see how it could get too built up, but I enjoyed just about every minute of it.