Bought from the newly improved Waterstone's who are (joy of joys) experimenting with single book price cuts rather than multi-buys. I read 'Cold Comfort Farm' ago but don't think I really got it. I keep meaning to try again because it's so generally loved and I don't like feeling that I'm missing out but I also want to read some of the books it parodies in the hope that it'll give me more insight - but I'm not sure I can face the doom and gloom yet.
Because of all the above the Cold Comfort sequels have never appealed to me as much as other Stella Gibbons have, but it's that time of year and Christmas in the title swung it. Imagine my joy to discover that this is a collection of short stories and only the title one is set on the farm. They all started life in magazines like 'The Lady' and 'Good Housekeeping' which is a sure sign of quality. Perhaps in homage to the general ambience of Cold Comfort Farm a lot of them deal with unhappy marriages and unfulfilled women but I find that cheering at a time of year when so much of the imagery around me seems designed to point out that I don't have a perfect life (and after all how many people do) .
It turns out that Gibbons writes a cracking good short story - small but perfectly formed. Gibbons is very much of her time and quite happy to take easy shots (at bohemians versus sensible married people and the like) but she has the humour to carry it off. My favourite is 'Golden Vanity' where a slim legged grey eyed English beauty spends her time daydreaming over romantic novels, passing up the chance for real romance whilst she does so. The pay off it that her dark handsome hero author turns out to be a woman... I like to think that she had Georgette Heyer in mind.
I'm inclined to think that this is Stella Gibbons at her best (you can keep 'Cold Comfort Farm' - even if it's sacrilege to say it) or at least it's a concentrated dose of all that she does best and a nice showcase of her talents. There's a lot more I could try and say about this book but Nicholas Lezard (who is after all a professional) has already done it better in the weekend Guardian so instead of me paraphrasing him do have a look.