Stella gibbons christmas at cold comfort farm
Christmas at Cold Comfort Farm by Stella GibbonsThe one thing everyone seems to know of Stella Gibbons is that she wrote one book Cold Comfort Farm and then she was destined to have it hang around her neck like the famous albatross for the rest of her less than stellar career. This may or may not be true, though I remember reading Here be dragons and quite enjoying it, but it cannot be denied that for myself CCF is probably the only book of hers that i would return to. That was until I picked this up whilst Christmas shopping in Exeter. Ironically the title short story is, whilst drawing on the fondness of memory of that other book, in my opinion quite easily the weakest story in the collection. It is without purpose, with little real humour and no drama. Weak, weak, weak. However that does not go for all the stories.
In the collection you gain a real sense of a woman who understood the missed opportunities for love and happiness that comes about as a result of people failing to speak or communicate clearly. To love and to cherish gently nudges us along the road of wasted life. There are other examples of the same sadness and though very few stories end sadly or miserably The walled garden, A charming man and sisters all speak in different ways of expectation and loss, of people reaching out in love or decency and being rebutted. Sad but real.
There is humour and a wonderful sense of the absurd and the sarcastic slant of some of Gibbons comments are wonderfully understated but striking. In The friend of man an overlooked woman taken for granted seeks release but to what
She did not want second best. She wanted the real thing; that real thing which her friends discovered, like the gleeful followers of a treasure hunt, every eighteen months or so ....Ouch
In the same story Gibbons describes another of the characters thus
He stood, balancing slightly on his heels, sipping his womanish drink and wishing it was beer; he was as conspicous as a stone post in that fluid crowd
simple image but cleverly expresses a good deal about him, his opinions and the insubstantial group of hangers on. This seems a particular gift of Gibbons, the ability to describe swiftly and concisely. In the story Tame Wild Party we find this sentence
He was green in the face and a lock of hair fell over one of his eyes giving him a Beardsleyish look which Joyce, who had never heard of Beardlsey, found singularly revolting
The genius of this little sentence is it tells us so much of Joyce. Had she heard of Beardsley then her reaction would have been different because the decadent society of which she felt compelled to be a part would approve of his look and thus so would she. I loved that concise and incisive whip of criticism implied without being obvious.
As i read these stories, and there are 16 in all, they come from different directions and nestle down with different atmospheres but I was struck by the fact that she wrote of the same class of people, to a large extent, as did Wodehouse. In these stories however, though there was not the same witticisms and clever turn of phrases that pepper his writing, I found I liked the characters more. I was, to a large extent rooting for them.
These stories will never have been going to set the world on fire but if you enjoy short stories then these have a simple value. They are about relationship and missed opportunity, about hero-worship and its painful demise, about the growth in self-knowledge that leads to a new future and the very last story in the collection is a simple but clever one that ends on a note of really satisfying acknowledgment that it is never too late.
Christmas on BBC1 1994 Cold Comfort Farm trailer
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The title story tells of a typical Christmas at the farm before the coming of Flora Poste. It is a parody of the worst sort of family Christmas. Adam Lambsbreath dresses up as Father Christmas in two of Judith's red shawls. There are unsuitable presents, unpleasant insertions into the pudding and Aunt Ada Doom orders Amos to carve the turkey, adding: 'Ay, would it were a vulture, 'twere more fitting! Stella Dorothea Gibbons, novelist, poet and short-story writer, was born in London in
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It parodies the romanticised, sometimes doom-laden accounts of rural life popular at the time, by writers such as Mary Webb. Following the death of her parents, the book's heroine, Flora Poste, finds she is possessed "of every art and grace save that of earning her own living". She decides to take advantage of the fact that "no limits are set, either by society or one's own conscience, to the amount one may impose on one's relatives", and settles on visiting her distant relatives at the isolated Cold Comfort Farm in the fictional village of Howling in Sussex. The inhabitants of the farm Aunt Ada Doom, the Starkadders, and their extended family and workers feel obliged to take her in to atone for an unspecified wrong once done to her father. As is typical in a certain genre of romantic 19th-century and early 20th-century literature, each of the farm's inhabitants has some long-festering emotional problem caused by ignorance, hatred, or fear, and the farm is badly run. Flora, being a level-headed, urban woman in the dandy tradition,  determines that she must apply modern common sense to their problems and help them adapt to the 20th century bringing metropolitan values into the sticks.
T o be honest, I only picked this book up out of a mixture of curiosity and charity. Everyone loves Cold Comfort Farm , and with very good reason, but even if they know that Stella Gibbons wrote about 30 other novels and umpteen short stories, they don't read them. So although a book with a spin-off CCF story comprising 17 of its pages may look as though it is exploiting a reputation, we should at least honour the creator of the Starkadders. As it is, the Cold Comfort Farm story is very funny "Amos, carve the bird. Ay, would it were a vulture, 'twere more fitting!