Before I started this book, I had a good look at the front cover.
The words at the bottom caught my attention: ‘Probably the funniest book ever written – SUNDAY TIMES’.
I needed a good laugh. My previous two books had been Great Expectations and Catch 22, which although had their funny moments, they dealt with such serious topics it was impossible to call them funny books.
So I started at page one, and waited with bated breath for hilarity to ensue.
And I waited. And waited.
Sure, the characters were interesting. Flora, suddenly made an orphan in her twenties, moves from her high life in London in the 1930s to go live with distant relatives in the south of England on a disorganised, backward and very dirty farm. That situation alone sets up for a good storyline.
The book was quite enjoyable, and easy to read. The characters were lovable (even the worst of them) and the scenery was described in such detail (almost to the point where Gibbons seemed to be poking fun at descriptive writing itself).
But every time I put the book down, those words on the front cover would jump out at me. The funniest book ever written?
So I began to question this. Maybe there were no funny books written before 1932. Maybe people from 1932 had a very different sense of humour. But more importantly, how can one judge ‘funniness’? What makes one book funnier than the other. What we find funny is so incredibly subjective I’m surprised the Sunday Times even attempted to make this broad, broad statement.
So I’m calling it. I’m going to say that Cold Comfort Farm is probably NOT the funniest book ever written, but it is absolutely an entertaining read.
In July 2014 I set myself the challenge to finish 100 must-read books before I die. For my ongoing tally click here.