I have never lived in a dwelling without a copy of Stella Gibbons‘ Cold Comfort Farm. It’s basic equipment, like a tea kettle. You re-read it periodically to experience, once again, the brisk pleasures of Our Heroine Flora Poste’s effect on the surly, poorly groomed denizens of this agricultural establishment in Sussex. As the years go by, you accumulate your favorite moments: the names of the cows (Aimless, Pointless, Feckless and Graceless); Adam Lambsbreath’s “liddle mop;” the magnificence of Seth Starkadder who is forever “lounging” into rooms and more or less popping out of his scanty garments.
The novel was written as satire, but it functions as humor even if you’re ignorant of the source material, which I guess is heavy-breathing fiction in the style of, say, D.H. Lawrence. There’s a lot of mud and resentment, and Gibbons has helpfully highlighted her favorite passages to make it easier for reviewers to find and quote them. These would be the bits where the farm crouches on the hillside like an angry animal, etc. etc. The “plot” of the novel is the old genteel-orphan-throws-herself-on-the-mercy-of-unknown-relatives situation, but Flora is a clear-eyed modern girl and her refusal to behave like Jane Eyre provides some of the fun. (The crazy woman in a closed room upstairs is no match for Flora’s cool common sense.)
Pure, reliable pleasure every time.