Have you ever looked at a group of dis-functional people and thought you could really help straighten their lives out? Well that's what Flora does in Cold Comfort Farm.
Flora is a well brought up young lady of 19 who has sadly been recently orphaned. Unfortunately she was not left much money so she decides to go live with a distant relative because as she puts it,
"I am only nineteen, but I have already observed that whereas there still lingers some absurd prejudice against living on one's friends, no limits are set, either by society or by one's own conscience, to the amount one may impose upon one's relatives."
Stella Gibbons, the author, makes me laugh. Especially at the beginning half of the book. Her humor is very tongue in cheek, sometimes very dry but such a welcome change.
She even prefaces the story with a letter to a friend where she states that despite her history in journalism she is now going to learn to "achieve literature" and when her quality of literature is especially good she will put little asterisks before it, so the reader (and reviewers) will know they are reading the finer passages. She does it too, which gave me a little smile every time I came to one of those sections.
So, back to the story. Flora decides to live with her Aunt Judith and all the cousins on Cold Comfort Farm even though she knows it will be dirty and not at all refined. She is prepared to meet the challenge and is determined to turn the place around.
The place is just as bad as Flora imagined, possibly even worse, but she tackles the job in her straight forward, matter of fact way. She systematically goes through the family, gets to know them, finds out their wants and needs and decides what she thinks is best for them, which, of course, usually turns out to be right, and helps them to get whatever it is that they wanted.
There are lots of colourful characters, romance, farm animals, humour, and surprisingly, a fair number of non-explicit sexual references.
I didn't want to put this book down. I couldn't wait to see how she would work everything out. I do have to say that I kept waiting for the twist in the story. The part where Flora fails, or she falls for an uncouth farmer, or she gets dirty or something equally disturbing to her, but that never really happens. But then I didn't realize at the time that the author was writing a satire.
I kind of wonder where this book has been all my life. How have I never even heard of it before this Top 100 Novels challenge? Wherever it's been, it reinforces why I wanted to do this in the first place. I wanted to read good books and this is a good book.