Sorting the Farm & the Family
Do you think your current mood affects the reading of the book? I have always used books as an escape from the more mundane reality. In books, I have lost myself and let go of my angst, anger, worries etc. They are my single source of wisdom, entertainment and getaway, all rolled into one. However, I have realized that there are some extenuating circumstances that may effect the reading of the book and may impact how you interpret and like the book! To get to specifics, instead of meandering across the literature -philosophy globe, I recently re-read Stella Gibbon’s Cold Comfort Farm. It was lying around and in a idle moment I picked it up and started re-reading. I had previously read in 2013 and had not really caught what the hullabaloo was about. I was unable to catch the jokes or the parody and on finishing the book, was not particularly satisfied or even happy. However in hindsight I realize that the timing was all wrong – while books provide a wonderful break from reality, some realities are too harsh to just turn away from. I had read the book 2013, just a couple of weeks after being ignominiously dumped practically at the alter, in favor of someone else and life, especially for the last quarter of that year had become a blur, where I can hardly recollect anything, let alone make discerning judgement about books! Fast forward 3 years down the line, I am again back to being sane and rational and a good time as any to think about Cold Comfort Farm!
After the death of her parents, 19 year old Flora Poste, discovers that she is left penniless by her father and while she was very well educated in schools that lay stress on intellectual development and sports, she is not qualified for any job that could help her earn her living. She comes up with an innovative solution to resolve her dilemma; she decides to write to her relatives, asking them for a home, she could share and once she is at their home, she would organize their life in a manner best suited for them. She finally resolves on living with her relatives the Starkadders, who reside in the distant Cold Comfort Farm in Sussex. On arriving at the farm, Flora realizes that there are a host of people who need her intervention – Amos, the patriarch who is also a brim and hell fire preacher, his wife Judith, who is the actual cousin to Flora and who has a unhealthy passion for her own son Seth; Seth, who lounges about claiming to be the Don Juan of the neighborhood with a secret passion for films; Ruben, his older brother who only wants to take charge of the farm; Elfine, their sister, an intellectual and nature loving girl, in love with local squire and finally Ado Doom, the formidable aunt of Flora Poste and the ruling mad matriarch of the Starkadders, who controls the lives and finances of the entire Starkadder family and their extended farm hands. There is much to be done and Flora sets about sorting everyone’s life out with daring and imagination and in the process, discover what she really wants out of life!
What can I say about the book, except to say I was a complete nincompoop to have missed all the joy, humor and plotting of this mind-blowing work! In Flora Poste, the author had created an extremely sensible and unapologetic heroine, a mix between Austen’s Emma and Elizabeth, with sense a great dose of sense of humor and complete irreverence to all that is considered holy and sacrosanct! Flora Poste goes about her plan with complete aplomb, without turning a hair as newer challenges are thrown over and over her projects. You have to love her for her sheer guts, if nothing else.The rest of the ensemble does justice to the book and in creating characters like Seth, Ruben and Mr. Mybug, Ms. Gibbons created a very obvious love out loud parody to all rural novels from Hardy to Lawrence. They are funny and yet very believable characters adding a layer of fun and warmth to a already wonderful plot! The plot lines around sukebinds and woodsheds is yet another witty take off on the standard rural novels! I loved that the plot was set in some future with flying cars and phones where you could see the person you were talking to and Anglo- Nicarguan wars; without stepping into the relm of science fiction, the author with these minor touches, creates an atmosphere which is a lot like what life was in 1930s and yet very different! Finally, a big hats off to Gibbon’s humor; enough cannot be said about her brilliant wit and scathing sarcasm. I loved the way she kept denouncing intelligence among women, through Flora, all the while using all kinds of literary references and common sense based actions to show the acute and scintillating brilliance of Flora and show casing the double standards that society expect from women.
I cannot rant enough about this book and I cannot even begin to compare with the heaps of praises that this book has justly received. The only thing I can say is….please go read the book if you have not done so already! And DO NOT read it during a life crisis; it is perfect as time away from minor irritants and daily nuisances!