Cold Comfort Farm is a hilarious satire of the sort of rural romances that were popular at the time. Stories of doomed lovers moved by animal passions on windblown moors, and often weighed down by overblown prose and adjective heavy descriptions.
Gibbons uses quick witty prose and spot on parodies of these lesser Wuthering Heights wannabes to tell the story of a very sensible and modern young lady, Flora Poste.
In need of a place to live after the passing of her parents, the practical Flora writes to her known relatives in hopes of avoiding having to get a job or a husband. Of the replies, the most interesting is that from the Starkadders of Cold Comfort Farm. The letter informs her that she is owed a debt for a long ago wrong done to her father, a debt now passed on to his only daughter, Flora.
Intrigued, Flora immediately gets on a train to the farm, and upon arrival finds a dank, rundown shambles of a house and a family in an equal state of disrepair. And both are in the iron grip of the Aunt Ada Doom, the matriarch of the family who is a recluse and reputed madwoman who has spent decades hidden in her room after a traumatic childhood event.
Practical and meddlesome, Flora right away sets herself to the task of meddling with the lives of the inhabitants of the farm. She teaches the servant girl the advantages of family planning, suggests to Uncle Amos to take his fiery sermons to a wider audience on the road, buys poor old Adam a proper little mop to clean the dishes (in place of the twig he used previously) and dives into matchmaking with the lovely but wild young Elfine and a well-to-do young neighbor. Little by little her urbane and unsentimental approach changes all around her, but one cloud still casts a shadow over everything and everyone. Can even Flora's undaunted optimism cope with Mad Aunt Ada Doom?
Best part of story, including ending:
Breezy prose, and very funny turns of phrase. But most importantly it's just relentlessly upbeat, much like Flora herself.
Best scene in story:
When the American producer shows up and recruits Seth, he's so American and in many ways just like Flora and Seth is so very transparent.
Opinion about the main character:
Flora is actually a potentially unlikeable person, very manipulative and unrepentant. Luckily the story and writing keeps her from tipping over into annoyance.
When Flora Poste is orphaned, she goes to live with relatives in the country - relatives who will have her because of "the wrong done" to her father. Flora finds a rural farm, replete with gritty characters and seething with imagery, and sets about tidying things up. She dispenses birth control advice to the hired girl, who gets pregnant once a year, and fashion and courtship tips to Elfine, who is in love with a local noble. Flora redirects careers, redistributes resources, and gets her curtains cleaned. She even manages, with application of travel and fashion magazines, to break Aunt Ada Doom's (who "saw something nasty in the woodshed" in her youth) hold on the family and the farm. A direct and funny answer to D.H. Lawrence, Thomas Hardy, and their disciples.
This report prepared by Ivy