I Saw Something Nasty in the Woodshed

Cold Comfort FarmCold Comfort Farm is the charming story of a young girl named Flora Poste, who is the product of an education that was “expensive, athletic, and prolonged.” Flora’s parents passed away when her studies were completed, and she is thrust out into the world to provide for herself on one hundred pounds a year. She ends up moving in with the Starkadders, a family of distant relatives lorded over by old Aunt Ada who “saw something nasty in the woodshed” as a child.

Cold Comfort Farm is a horrid, gloomy, and ill kept place to live, but nonetheless Flora sets out to civilize her eccentric relatives. She begins by inviting her cousin Reuben to tea.

“He stood at the table facing Flora and blowing heavily on his tea and staring at her. Flora did not mind. It was quite interesting: like having tea with a rhinoceros.”

Flora goes on to reform each of her extended family members, and helps them break free of Aunt Ada’s grasp. Aunt Ada takes this assault with the incessant, wounded cry of, “I saw something nasty in the woodshed!” “Did it see you?” a visiting Hollywood producer enquires. The housekeeper is not sympathetic. “Well, if I’d ‘ad sixpence for all the narsty things I’ve seen since I bin working at Cold Comfort I could buy the place up (not that I’d want to, come to that).”

In the end Flora ties up all the loose ends and even wins over wretched Aunt Ada, to everyone’s surprise. The book is a hoot. Cleverly done. There is an equally delightful film based on the novel that almost does justice to the book. I thoroughly recommend both.

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