Books that are truly worth reading

Cold Comfort Farm

Stella Gibbons

Winner of the 1933 Femina Vie Heureuse Prize, Cold Comfort Farm is a wickedly funny portrait of British rural life in the 1930s. Flora Poste, a recently orphaned socialite, moves in with her country relatives, the gloomy Starkadders of Cold Comfort Farm, and becomes enmeshed in a web of violent emotions, despair, and scheming, until Flora manages to set things right.

Recommended by Rebecca

The first reason to read this book is that you can skip a lot of it, because Stella Gibbons has highlighted the best passages with a handy symbol that she points out at the beginning. This book has a few great selling points:

1) the main character doesn’t take any nonsense and will leave you feeling that you don’t need to take any either

2) it takes place on a farm that is definitely more depressing than your flatshare/family home/retirement community, leaving you to feel good about your life

3) it tells us that visiting old buildings is as good a psychological cure as any – which seems cheap, and wholesome, hence good to know

4) it doesn’t make the countryside seem very pleasant, which takes off all the pressure to enjoy yourself when you go there.

So, there we are. A great parody of novels which idealise rural life (think ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ in the 19th century), this book is an antidote to all that grass-is-greener thinking. It’s still escapist and fun. Why not read it in a park?