Sunday, May 22, 2011

Comfortable, Elegant, and All That Is Good In Life

You know I like to start out with my recommendation source... I have to say, I finally have one I can't really easily identify :) Cold Comfort Farm has been on my list of "Books to Read" for years, under the category "English countryside types."  Now, I don't know why I originally put it on my list (Lauren Willig? :)) but Stella Gibbons is only English countryside in the most literal sense.  Recently, I read the Wikipedia summary of the book (or maybe it was just of the author) and discovered that, in fact, Cold Comfort Farm is a humorous take on English society books of the '30s.  So we're talking not only funny, which actually English countryside typically is, but completely filled with levity (I wanted to say levitous, but I just couldn't :)).  And better, we're talking high society, babe ;) not those boring working class stiffs tat typically inherit rural literature :)  Once I realized this, I put the book rather up on my todo list, and got on line at the library to wait my turn.

Cold Comfort was a surprise delight from the start.  The main character, Flora, is not only a perfectly lovely society girl of nineteen, pretty, popular, and educated (if not rich :)) she's adorable, smart, and utterly capable.  She reminds of what Emma thinks she is (a rather astute observation if I do say so myself :)) - she likes to organize everyone's lives, and she's actually good at it.  She's also totally irrepressible, writing to each of her relatives for an invitation to mooch off them until such time as she sees fit to move on (to get married, perhaps? :)) And she gets welcomes from each of them too.  But she chooses to go stay with her disturbingly strange cousins at Cold Comfort Farm, and proceeds to amuse herself with fixing up their wretched lives.

Now here's where the book could have gotten really boring, or worse, tense.  But instead, Flora remains totally in control of her absolutely bizarre relatives' various hang-ups and shenanigans.  And I'm telling you, they are bizarre.  But since the whole book is very clearly a joke, I could just relax and enjoy the joke of these larger-than-life, and for the most part, cruder than life, characters and their little neuroses.  Flora keeps everyone well in hand, and takes good care of disposing of every one to his or her greater happiness.  And she keeps herself pretty happy and very well liked while doing it.  At one point I noticed that not only were the characters simply out of this world outrageous, the setting, which takes place in the "near future" (which I interpreted to mean maybe within in a year of publication date 1932) actually takes place in some futuristic version of the 50's.  But it's funny, because far from greatly advanced, the book feels like a throwback to the last days of good English society - but why would I complain, that's exactly the society I like best :)

So Flora keeps herself, and us, entertained by meddling in all her silly cousins' lives, to their great benefit.  I'm sure you're asking by now, what about Flora? Well Flora's nice little love interest is introduced right at the beginning of the book.  There's not much suspense, since as far as I could tell, they liked each other immediately, and not much interaction, as Flora was far away in Susssex and only communicated with her Charles through letters we never see.  But you know she's going to be okay, not left alone at the end.  Since I didn't really expect the book to be a romance, I didn't mind the mostly lack of pathos threaded through Flora's own story.  But then, in the last chapter of the book, an extra bonus treat - she managed to finish up with a spectacular last chapter of a romance.  Despite my assumption that Flora's and Charles's romance was a foregone conclusion, there was apparently some suspense left between the two. And it made for some beautiful storytelling wrapping that suspense right up :) So not only thoroughly enjoyable, but a nice little tip at the end :)

Verdict: 4.5/5

No comments:

Post a Comment