Books

Cold Comfort Farm

Stella Gibbons (and others)

Patricia Gallimore and Miriam Margolyes star in this BBC Radio 4 full-cast dramatisation of the classic comic novel. Strong of will and slender of ankle, 20-year-old orphan Flora Poste is blessed with every virtue save that of being able to earn her own living. Casting around for suitable relatives with whom she can make her home, Flora alights on the mysterious Starkadders and, ignoring the horrified shrieks of her friends, heads down to darkest Sussex.

There she is confronted by an exceptionally odd cast of characters: grief-stricken Judith, fervently religious Amos, the lusty smouldering Seth, wild and mysterious Elfine and, of course, the invisible tyrant Great Aunt Ada Doom who saw something nasty in the woodshed. Many would be overcome by the simmering passions of the Starkadder family, but not Flora. All they need is a little organising.

Stella Gibbons' deliciously witty parody has been delighting readers since 1932 and retains its original sunny charm in this BBC Radio 4 full-cast dramatisation. Duration: 2 hours approx.

The Yellow Houses

Stella Gibbons

Wilfred Davis, quiet, retired, respectable widower, is sitting and sobbing on a park bench. He has lost his daughter and any sense of purpose. A mysterious stranger passes him a handkerchief, and strikes up a conversation that leads to friendship and an unconventional new home for Wilfred.

Mary Davis wants only four things out of life: a husband and three children, so at seventeen she runs away from school, her father and her home and moves to London to find them. Only a few months later Mary is engaged, but love and marriage promise to be very different from her childhood daydreams.

For Mary and Wilfred, it seems Fate has taken a hand, or is there another kind of guiding spirit at play?

Stella Gibbons' final novel, written in the 1970s but only discovered many years after her death, is published here for the first time.

Pure Juliet

Stella Gibbons

Creepy. Peculiar. Fairy. Goblin. Liar. Weirdo. Crank. Genius.

No one knows what to make of Juliet Slater, not even her mother. And clothes, boys, school, friends, the changing seasons and what other people think - none of these things seem to matter to Juliet. She spends hours in her room with incomprehensible mathematical text books, her mind voyaging in strange seas of thought, alone. Is she a genius? It might take the rest of her life to find out.

While Stella Gibbons was celebrated for her beloved bestseller Cold Comfort Farm, the manuscript for Pure Juliet lay unseen and forgotten until it was brought to light by her family in 2014, and is published here for the first time in Vintage Classics. A tale that travels from an eco-millionaire's British country idyll to an Arabian Nights-style fantasy of the Middle East, this is a treat for fans of this witty, curious and always surprising author.

Christmas at Cold Comfort Farm

Stella Gibbons (and others)

You're dreading Christmas with your in-laws.
You've got a cold coming on.
You're worried you've forgotten to buy a gift for somebody.
Apply this book to the affected area.
You should soon feel like your cheerful self again.

Christmas at Cold Comfort Farm will remind you that Christmas is a magical time of year and romance can blossom in the least likely of places.

Conference at Cold Comfort Farm

Stella Gibbons (and others)

Robert Poste's child is back at Cold Comfort Farm. But all is not well. Flora finds the farm transformed into a twee haven filled with Toby jugs and peasant pottery, and rooms labelled 'Quiete Retreate' and 'Greate laundrie'. It is, Flora winces, 'exactly like being locked in the Victoria and Albert Museum after closing time'.

Worse, the farm is hosting a conference of the pretentious International Thinkers Group - a group made up of the 'sadistic owl' Mr Peccavi, loathsome Mr Mybug and the overpowering Mrs Ernestine Thump.

And worst of all, there are no Starkadders at Cold Comfort Farm. All the he-cousins have gone abroad to make their fortunes and the female cousins are having a pretty thin time of it. Once again the sensible Flora decides to take the situation in hand.

Westwood

Stella Gibbons (and others)

WITH AN INTRODUCTION BY LYNNE TRUSS

'Stella Gibbons is the Jane Austen of the twentieth century' The Times

Set in wartime London, Westwood tells the story of Margaret Steggles, a plain bookish girl whose mother has told her that she is not the type that attracts men. Her schoolfriend Hilda has a sunny temperament and keeps her service boys 'ever so cheery'. When Margaret finds a ration book on Hampstead Heath the pompous writer Gerard Challis enters both their lives. Margaret slavishly adores Challis and his artistic circle; Challis idolises Hilda for her hair and her eyes and Hilda finds Gerard's romantic overtures a bit of a bind. This is a delightfully comic and wistful tale of love and longing.

Starlight

Stella Gibbons

Gladys and Annie Barnes are impoverished sisters who have seen better times. They live in a modest cottage in the backstreets of Highate with Mr Fisher, a mild but eccentric old man living secretively in the attic above them. Their quiet lives are thrown into confusion when a new landlord takes over, a dreaded and unscrupulous 'rackman'. He installs his wife in part of the cottages in the hope that there she will recover from an unspecified malady. With a mounting sense of fear, Gladys and Annie become convinced she is possessed by an evil spirit...

My American

Stella Gibbons

My American follows the lives and loves of Amy Lee and Robert Vorst: from a chance childhood meeting to the comic, tragic and romantic trysts that follow. Amy, a baker's daughter, has dreams of becoming a writer, whilst Robert is destined to be a doctor. Later, embarking on a lecture tour in Depression-era America, she is reminded of her childhood friend and endeavours to find him.

Ticky

Stella Gibbons

The Club in central London holds the quarters of Queen Victoria's finest regiment: the First Bloods. Inside the mighty building, with its two exquisite glass towers, the First Bloods and their regimental servants tussle over a portion of recreational ground. Amidst the rows and rumbles - and remarkable punishments - is a mocking and piquant observation of factious all-male societies.

Here Be Dragons

Stella Gibbons

When Nell Sely moves from sleepy Dorset to Hampstead she leaves behind a childhood of dull teas and oppressive rules for the freedom of the big city. Naive and only nineteen, she becomes embroiled with the wayward John Gaunt and falls in with London's bohemian crowd. In this city of seductive, shifting morals, smoke-filled jazz-clubs and glamorous espresso bars, Nell must master her new found independence and learn to strike her own course.

Bassett

Stella Gibbons

The Tower Guesthouse lies nestled between the beech woods of Buckinghamshire. It is run by the unlikely partnership of balmy Miss Padsoe and young, cockney Miss Baker - divided by class and age, they are determined to dislike each other. Through their tale and the interwoven tribulations of two young lovers, Gibbons's sparkling novel explores the heart of friendship and what unites us.

The Bachelor

Stella Gibbons

Brother and sister, Constance and Kenneth Fielding live in calm respectability, just out of reach of London and the Blitz. But when a series of uninvited guests converge upon them – from a Balkan exile to Ken’s old flame and the siblings’ own raffish father – the household struggles to preserve its precious peace. In this full house, in a quiet corner of suburbia, no one expects to find romance.

The Matchmaker

Stella Gibbons

Uprooted from war-torn London, Alda Lucie-Brown and her three daughters start a new life at Pine Cottage in rural Sussex. Unsuited to a quiet life, Alda attempts to orchestrate - with varying degrees of success - the love affairs of her neighbours. Her unwilling subjects include an Italian POW, a Communist field-hand, a battery-chicken farmer and her intelligent friend Jean.

White Sand and Grey Sand

Stella Gibbons

On the dunes west of Bruges, two-year-old Ydette is found wrapped in a blanket and taken back to live in a small grocer's shop. Opposite the shop live the wealthy van Roeslaere family and their son, Adriaan, a spoilt boy, plagued by ugliness. With overtones of Beauty and the Beast, their romance matures as they grow up together and learn what should truly be valued in life.

The Rich House

Stella Gibbons

Set on the eve of World War II in a resort on the east coast of England, The Rich House follows the love affairs of six young people and their intertwined adorations. Encircling their lives is Archibald Early, a once-famous actor, his housekeeper and his grandson Ted. These three tip the balance, and relationships shift, but even war cannot halt the passions of the young.

The Charmers

Stella Gibbons

Thrown out of her long-established office job, Miss Christine Smith takes up a new role as housekeeper for a group of middle-aged artists. Charmed by a previous mystical experience, her spirituality is nurtured further by the tenants, who seem stuck in their own personal lull. Written in the 1960s, surrounded by social and political transitions, the novel focuses on change, or the lack thereof.

Cold Comfort Farm

Stella Gibbons

A hilarious and merciless parody of rural melodramas and one of the best-loved comic novels of all time, Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons is beautifully repackaged as part of the Penguin Essentials range.

'We are not like other folk, maybe, but there have always been Starkadders at Cold Comfort Farm...'

Sensible, sophisticated Flora Poste has been expensively educated to do everything but earn a living. When she is orphaned at twenty, she decides her only option is to descend on relatives - the doomed Starkadders at the aptly named Cold Comfort Farm.

There is Judith in a scarlet shawl, heaving with remorse for an unspoken wickedness; raving old Ada Doom, who once saw something nasty in the woodshed; lustful Seth and despairing Reuben, Judith's two sons; and there is Amos, preaching fire and damnation to one and all.

As the sukebind flowers, Flora takes each of the family in hand and brings order to their chaos.

Cold Comfort Farm is a sharp and clever parody of the melodramatic and rural novel.

'Very probably the funniest book ever written' Sunday Times

'Screamingly funny and wildly subversive' Marian Keyes, Guardian

'Delicious ... Cold Comfort Farm has the sunniness of a P. G. Wodehouse and the comic aplomb of Evelyn Waugh's Scoop' Independent

'One of the finest parodies written in English...a wickedly brilliant skit' Robert Macfarlane, Guardian

Stella Gibbons was born in London in 1902. She went to North London Collegiate School and studied journalism at University College, London. She then worked for ten years on various papers, including the Evening Standard. Her first publication was a book of poems, The Mountain Beast (1930), and her first novel, Cold Comfort Farm (1932), won the Femina Vie Heureuse Prize. Amongst her other novels are Miss Linsey and Pa (1936), Nightingale Wood (1938), Westwood (1946), Conference at Cold Comfort Farm (1949) and Beside the Pearly Water (1954). Stella Gibbons died in 1989.

Cold Comfort Farm

Stella Gibbons (and others)

A witty portrait of rural England in the early twentieth century, the Penguin Classics edition of Stella Gibbons's Cold Comfort Farm is introduced by Lynne Truss, author of Eats, Shoots and Leaves.

When sensible, sophisticated Flora Poste is orphaned at nineteen, she decides her only choice is to descend upon relatives in deepest Sussex. At the aptly-named Cold Comfort Farm, she meets the doomed Starkadders: cousin Judith, heaving with remorse for unspoken wickedness; Amos, preaching fire and damnation; their sons, lustful Seth and despairing Reuben; child of nature Elfine; and crazed old Aunt Ada Doom, who has kept to her bedroom for the last twenty years. But Flora loves nothing better than to organise other people. Armed with common sense and a strong will, she resolves to take each of the family in hand. A hilarious and ruthless parody of rural melodramas and purple prose, Cold Comfort Farm is one of the best-loved comic novels of all time.

This new Penguin Classics edition includes an introduction by Lynne Truss discussing Stella Gibbons's unconventional life and career and her joyously satirical voice.

Stella Gibbons (1932-89) novelist, poet and short-story writer, was educated at North London Collegiate School and studied journalism at University College, London. She then worked for ten years on various papers, including the Evening Standard and published several books of poetry and short stories.

If you enjoyed Cold Comfort Farm you might like George and Weedon Grossmith's Diary of a Nobody, also available in Penguin Classics.

'Brilliant ... very probably the funniest book ever written'
Julie Burchill, Sunday Times

'Literary bliss'
Guardian

Biography

Stella Gibbons was born in London in 1902. She went to the North London Collegiate School and studied journalism at University College, London. She then worked for ten years on various papers, including the Evening Standard. Stella Gibbons is the author of twenty-five novels, three volumes of short stories, and four volumes of poetry. Her first publication was a book of poems, The Mountain Beast (1930) and her first novel Cold Comfort Farm (1932) won the Femina Vie Heuruse Prize for 1933. Among her works are Christmas at Cold Comfort Farm (1940) Westwood (1946), Conference at Cold Comfort Farm (1959) and Starlight (1967). She was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 1950. In 1933 she married the actor and singer Allan Webb. They had one daughter. Stella Gibbons died in 1989.