14. Cold Comfort Farm, Stella Gibbons (1932)

Another strong contender for ‘funniest book ever’, Cold Comfort Farm is a gleefully silly parody of the highly serious rural novels that were popular in the 30s. If that’s all it was, it wouldn’t have lasted – but there’s something about Gibbons’s attack on ‘simple working folk’ that strikes a deep chord with those of us who are amused by the fetish for ‘authenticity’, ‘working classness’, ‘not coming from London’ etc. Cheerful, practical Flora Poste leaves her pleasant London life to investigate a mysterious legacy in deepest, muddiest Sussex, where she quickly gets involved in the elemental passions of her Starkadder relatives, who are constantly ‘mollocking’ with each other, especially when the sukebind is in flower. I always used to think ‘what a pity Stella Gibbons never wrote anything else good’, because the sequels to CCF are pretty weak, but last year I read her great novel of wartime London, Westwood, which is totally different and highly recommended.



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