Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Cold Comfort Farm

Cold comfort is what half the township experienced last week, with an extended power outage after more than a foot of snow fell.  So it's fitting that the library's evening book group will be discussing Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons at 7:30 p.m. tonight at Dunkin' Donuts on Springfield Avenue.  (We hope to be able to return to the library for next month's meeting.)

The novel is 57th on The Guardian's list of 100 best novels in English. Cold Comfort Farm's heroine is Flora Poste, a sensible young woman who moves from London to a farm owned by her uncivilized and passionate rural relations, attempting to reform their lives.

It's also funny (for a classic).  For me, the humor came not from the way Cold Comfort Farm parodies other novels, but from its characters and language.  For example, Mrs. Beetle intends her four grandchildren to form a jazz band one day, so they are referred to as "the jazz-band," as in, "Agony Beetle and the jazz-band arrived with their arms full of nasturtiums. . . " Flora's cousin preaches fire and brimstone at "the Church of the Quivering Brethren" and his cows are named Graceless, Aimless, Feckless, and Pointless.  Gibbons also skewers the theory that Branwell Bronte wrote his sisters' novels in a humorous fashion.

There are discussion questions available here. I have added some of my own below:

1. Did you like the book or not? Did you think it was funny or not?

2.  How did you feel about the dialect in the book? Did it make it harder to read? Or did you enjoy Gibbons' creativity?

3.  Could you recognize which books or kind of books that Cold Comfort Farm parodies?

4.  Did you pick up on a couple of instances of mild anti-Semitism in the book?  (This depends on the edition you read, as the one I read had changed "Jew shop" to just "shop".) Did you think Mr. Mybug/Meyerburg was intended to be Jewish?

5.  Although Cold Comfort Farm was published in 1932, Gibbons set the novel in the near future, 1947 or later.  What are some of the clues to the time of the setting in Cold Comfort Farm?

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