Friday 7 August 2020

When the sukebind is in bud ...

Delicious new cover for the Penguin Modern Classics edition of Cold Comfort Farm.  I've never found this book quite as amusing as is often claimed.   Probably because  I am very fond of one of the novels it parodies (Mary Webb's Precious Bane) but there is lots to love about this 1932 classic.

Flora Poste is an elegant bluestocking, remarkably self-assured for a nineteen year old but her moments of self-doubt and kindness keep the reader on her side as she descends on Cold Comfort Farm to drag the unwilling inhabitants into the twentieth century.

I liked Mrs Beetle, wife of Agony Beetle and mother of Meriam the hired girl who falls pregnant 'when the sukebind* is in bud' and has produced several babies.  Flora advises Meriam on contraception and Mrs Beetle offers her own advice:
Anyway, we know now, thanks to Miss Interference from up the 'ill. And I'll lay she's no better than she ought to be, a bit of a kid like 'er sailing in 'ere as bold as brass and talkin' to you about such things.  Still, she does look as if she washed 'erselef sometimes, and she ain't painted up like a dog's dinner, like most of them nowadays.  Not that I 'old with wot she told, you mind you, it ain't right. 
I really liked all the Jane Austen references.  The novel's dedication comes from Mansfield Park 'Let other pens dwell on guilt and misery' and  begins with Flora's position in the world and financial prospects which is also typical of the beginning of an Austen novel.  I suppose her interfering nature makes her a little like Emma, but Flora does not have Emma's wealth and status.  She does however intend to write a novel as good as Persuasion when she is 53.

Sukebind is a flower invented by Stella Gibbons to symbolise human lust!