Initially, Cold Comfort Farm rather underwhelmed me. Its tagline as "the comic classic of rural life" and its opening paragraph held so much promise that I set my expectations high.
Cold Comfort Farm is a novel of gentle wit. When Flora Poste's parents die suddenly she is left, at age 20, possessing "every art and grace save that of earning her own living". Despite her Father's reputation as a wealthy man, he turns out to have been a poor one and she is left only a small inheritance. She decides to find a relative to live with who will house her in exchange for "her beautiful eyes and a hundred pounds a year", and whom she will take "in hand, and alter his or her character and mode of living to suit my taste. Then, when it please me, I shall marry".
Flora chooses to live with her peculiar extended relatives, the Starkadders. The Starkadders are in possession of a large farm in Sussex. They are ruled over by the tyrannical Aunt Ada Doom and the religiously fevoured Amos. Slowly, Flora either reforms or dispenses with each of the farm's residents. She does it with such poise and, seemingly, such little premeditation that one can't help but be impressed.
Stella Gibbon's Cold Comfort Farm is somewhat Austenesque in its humour and, I now believe, holds a well earned place in the affection of its many readers' hearts some 80 years after its first publication.