The Hoofer and the Lady
Christmas at Cold Comfort Farm, Stella Gibbons
I continued my love of Stella Gibbons and her book covers with this collection of short stories (the title of this post is my favourite titled story). I don’t read many short stories because after a couple I normally feel a bit cheated… I want to get really stuck into a story that doesn’t end so quickly. This book didn’t necessarily read like a collection of stories; rather a chapter on a small part of a bigger picture.
Stella Gibbons’ writing is unrelentingly brilliant. The tone and appeal of each story is pretty much the same as anything else I have read by her. She really is an author who, if you like one piece of writing, you will like all of her writing. That isn’t to say she writes the same story over and over. On the contrary, each story takes a different turn but makes up a very coherent picture of 1930s England.
My only criticism of this book is what has to be the most lacklustre Introduction I have ever read. It is by Alexander McCall Smith, who has since managed to convince me never to read one of his books. I’m not convinced he feels even remotely as strongly as I do about Stella Gibbons… at least, he seemed to think that the Introduction to her writing wasn’t the right place to be enthusiastic about her.
The title is a little bit of a sticking point. The actual story Christmas at Cold Comfort Farm is very short, and initially just seems included in order to get readers to pick the book up – Cold Comfort Farm being Gibbons’ only novel in print until recently. There are a couple of Christmas themed stories but they aren’t the majority. However, I am happy to have the book linked to Christmas because it does feel like a good time of year to read this: It is nostalgic and a real pleasure to indulge. But that shouldn’t stop you reading it any other time of year, of course.