Customer Reviews


27 Reviews
5 star:
 (16)
4 star:
 (5)
3 star:
 (5)
2 star:
 (1)
1 star:    (0)
 
 
 
 
 
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
 
 

The most helpful favourable review
The most helpful critical review


83 of 86 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars More reprints from this author please
Oh what a lovely lovely book.

I am learning humility late in life as I discover and love authors I turned my nose up at years ago. Stella Gibbons joins these distinguished ranks and I am going to own up and say I have never read Cold Comfort Farm (I now have a copy waiting to go), despite the fact that the author used to be a regular reader at HIghgate...
Published on 30 May 2009 by Elaine Simpson-long

versus
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Sour, cynical and surprisingly mean spirited
I love the acerbic wit of Gibbons' Cold Comfort Farm, but am surprised at what a bitter, derisive book this is in comparison. Gibbon's scorn for all her characters permeates each page, and she is so contemptuous of them all that this becomes an increasingly unpleasant read.

Some characters we expect, in pantomime fashion, to be metaphorically booed: Mr Wither...
Published 14 months ago by Roman Clodia


‹ Previous | 1 2 3 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

83 of 86 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars More reprints from this author please, 30 May 2009
By 
Elaine Simpson-long (Colchester, UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 1000 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Nightingale Wood (VMC) (Paperback)
Oh what a lovely lovely book.

I am learning humility late in life as I discover and love authors I turned my nose up at years ago. Stella Gibbons joins these distinguished ranks and I am going to own up and say I have never read Cold Comfort Farm (I now have a copy waiting to go), despite the fact that the author used to be a regular reader at HIghgate Library where I worked in the 1960s. She was a very quiet, elegant, charming lady and though I knew who she was, I was not overwhelmed with excitement as I was then a stripling of 18 and not impressed by what I saw as authors of 'nice' books. I do remember her coming in one morning looking rather cross and her telling me that she had had a wonderful idea for a book which came to her in the middle of the night, only she did not write it down, and now she had forgotten it. I wonder which one that was?

In Nightingale Wood we meet Viola Withers, a young penniless widow, who is forced to live with her late husband's family in a cold joyless house. Mr Wither, a miser and a misery who rules the roost and who will not let his daughter Madge have a dog, Mrs Wither who thinks Viola is just a common shop girl and Tina, who is in love with Saxon, the chauffeur.

Viola meets and falls in love with Victor Spring, the local Prince Charming, dashing, handsome, rich and clever, but who dallies with her feelings while becoming engaged to the oh so suitable, but shrewish, Phyllis. Viola finds her life repressive and boring but can see no future other than to stay where she is and moulder away. She yearns for freedom and happiness:

"She looked across the saltings to where the sea was and as she lifted her face, rosy with the steady smoothing of the cold wind, the sun darted a bright gold beam across the marshes......she heard a strangely thrilling noise....nearer and nearer it came, until suddenly there swept over her head a flock of wild swans, rushing on white gold wings into the sunset. Laughing with excitement, she ran down the track the follow their flight but the sunset, and tears, dazzled her and she could not see.

They were so beautiful....wouldn't it be wonderful if she could always feel like she had felt when they thundered over her head, not wanting anyone, happy to be quite alone and looking at something as beautiful as those swans?

But the sun had gone behind the clouds again and the wind was getting up, it was nearly half past three and the last bus left at four."

This book is sheer delight from start to finish. It is funny, witty and amusing, but also sympathetic and gentle, even to the ghastly Mr Withers, who really is a tyrant in his home:

"Mrs Withers came in but he took no notice of her because he had seen her before"

but

"Emmie's a good wife to me, a very good wife, suddenly thought Mr Wither. And then, like a cold wind - What shall I do when she's gone?"

The story of how the Withers family find love and/or fulfilment and whether Viola marries her Prince Charming or not against all the odds, is just lovely (sorry to overuse this word but cannot think of an alternative), and kept me up till late last night fighting to keep awake in order to finish Nightingale Wood. Cornflower Books has also reviewed this title so check out what she has to say here .

Off now to check all of Stella Gibbon's output and make a note of all their titles as I am compiling my wish list for my visit to Hay on Wye next month. I have a sneaky feeling I am going to come back with a bootful of books.

Oh I do hope so....
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


27 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A delightful reprint. More please...., 7 April 2009
By 
Mrs Curzon Tussaud (London, U.K.) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Nightingale Wood (VMC) (Paperback)
Nightingale Wood is a kind of buffer state outside the village; a handy place for confrontational or dramatic meetings, but most of the action takes place in, and the outside world is seen through the prism of, the Withers' household in Essex, where the newly widowed daughter-in-law Viola is shortly to arrive and take up residence. The patriarchical Mr Withers could be said, in Siegfried Sassoon's words, "to hunt a bitch pack" as there are two unmarried daughters, his wife, and three women in the kitchen, and only the god-like chauffeur Saxon to redress the balance. One further "character" haunts the book, like a spectre at the feast, and that is Money. The ups and downs of Mr Withers's financial affairs govern the daily happiness at The Eagles and affect the atmosphere crucially. He is like a marionette whose puppeteer is £sd.

"never could be sure what his money was up to........ he prowled uneasily after it in the financial columns of the Press".

"Mr. Withers's heart was fairly light as he set out for a walk ....... it was a fine day, the money was better..."

"Mr Withers, because the money had again rallied, was on top of the world. He showed it by suddenly giving the four women a pound each."

"It is a beautiful sight, Victor's money. It grows: it runs healthily round the country like a sound bloodstream: it never suffers from the palpitations and nerve storms that affect Mr. Withers's money".

It could be said that worrying about his money has robbed Mr Withers of many simple pleasures, and he acts in an emotional vacuum, completely unaware of the concerns and desires of the other women under his roof, except to deny and control them. In the main, they manage to subvert his plans, and each of the three young women achieves what she wants out of life despite his intervention. Stella Gibbons writes with delicate irony and a wry comic touch; having read of Mr Withers's combover on page 1, it is quite hard to take him seriously after that. A recurring motif after the Infirmary Ball, as the ladies prepare for bed, is the decreasing cost of their face cream........ Phyllis's at 6/6 a pot, Tina's at 2/6, while Viola "was already dreaming, with her face covered with a cream at sixpence a tube and a dance programme under her pillow".

If any publishers are out there wondering which seam to mine next, consider the OOP novels of Stella Gibbons.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Comfortable But Not "Comfort", 13 Dec 2009
By 
M. J. Saxton (Dewsbury, West Yorkshire United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Nightingale Wood (VMC) (Paperback)
It was really interesting to read another book by Stella Gibbons as, like many others, I adore "Cold Comfort Farm".

Though there is much similar humour in this book, it is more of a slow burn. Gibbons takes her time in setting up each of her characters in detail along with the setting of the novel. This perhaps could have done with more editing for contemporary taste. However, it marks something of the transition from the Victorian of detailed background and development to the modern fast-paced, story driven bestseller.

Viola is rather wimpy as a heroine, but becomes more endearing the better you get to know her and comes into her own as a character within the last third of the book. If seen as the main character, she is too insipid, but when the reader realises that there are half a dozen major characters she fits brilliantly.

That's a point - you have to realise there are six main characters and that took me a while. Once that perspective is in place it is easier to see how the book is balanced. All of them have quite major faults and are completely human.

Stella Gibbons does a wonderful job of putting believable people on the page. She conjures her contemporary era well: its people, buildings and attitudes. The hotel at Stanton is an excellent evocation of holiday behaviour in those proper times.

If anything, the most sympathetic character is Tina Wither whose growing maturity calls for empathy every step of the way along her affair with Saxon. A lovely romance ending in a very grounded marriage. Fortunately we also have the silly romance and marriage of Viola and Victor to create equipoise.

Hetty and Madge are characters straight off the comedy stage of the thirties, and Phyl is a bitch-villainess par excellence.

But there are lots of great characters here; it is like and not like "Cold Comfort Farm" and worth the read - it was a really good idea of Virago to re-print this.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Nightingale wood, 23 April 2009
This review is from: Nightingale Wood (VMC) (Paperback)
A totally charming book in every way. A deeply satisfying cinderella story with a reasonably happy ending, plenty of humour, and the best description of an english spring i've ever read. I do hope more of her back catalogue returns to print, it would be a real shame to loose this kind of observational humour.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A beautifully twisted fairytale, 8 Mar 2011
This review is from: Nightingale Wood (VMC) (Paperback)
Nightingale Wood is a fairytale says the cover, and yes it is.

The story of Cinderella, set in the 1930s, still recognisable but twisted into something new and something just a little bit subversive.

Viola is a penniless young widow. She is pretty and charming, but sadly her circumstances force her to move to the country to live with her in-laws.

The Withers family is terribly middle class and stifling respectable, and though Mr and Mrs Wither do not consider Viola, a former shopgirl, to be quite of their class they know their duty. Mr Withers is most concerned about Viola's finances and his wife about her family's perception and position in local society.

Their unmarried, middle-aged daughters are a little less concerned. Madge wants little more than a dog and to be part of the country set, while Tina is quite besotted by Saxon, the family chauffeur.

The family and its interactions are presented with gentle wit and humour, but the sadness is just below the surface. Sadness at a lack of understanding and at a class system that keeps them all in their places and allows so much potential in the women of the household to be wasted.

A few miles away live the Spring family. Mrs Spring is proud of he successful son Victor, ambitious for him, and delighted that he is virtually engaged to an eminently suitable young woman. Her bookish young niece, Hetty is less impressed.

Viola's arrival, and her certainty that Victor must be her Prince Charming after she dances with him at a ball, is the spark that changes everything. Lives change, conventions are broken and opportunities are seized.

Stella Gibbons tells a lovely, complex tale with all of the wit and humour you could want, and she balnces that perfectly with real understanding, real emotions, and just a light sprinkling of fairy dust.

This is the third of her novels that I have read, and I really have grown to love the way her authorial voice is always present but never obtrusive, and the wonderful trick she has of seeming to be heading down a traditional, well trodden path, only to head off somewhere different and rather more interesting at the last minute. That really is clever.

This time around her pace seemed a little slow, but it is was worth lingering because there are so many lovely details, dialogues and observations, and some telling points are made about the class system, the lack of opportunity for women and the difference that money makes

But what held everything together was wonderful characterisation, and I continued to be engaged no matter which of the diverse cast was taking centre stage. Such a wonderful variety of people, relationships, and things going on!

I willed Tina on as she took tentative steps to deft convention and make her relationship with Saxon official. I laughed as Madge entertained the huntin', shootin', and fishin' brigade. I worried about Hetty's future. And I wondered if Victor really was Prince Charming, if he was good enough for Viola.

The ending was in doubt until the very last minute, but when it arrived it was perfect and there was a little sting in the tail.

The perfect ending for a fine entertainment and a lovely piece of social comedy.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Sour, cynical and surprisingly mean spirited, 18 Oct 2013
By 
Roman Clodia (London) - See all my reviews
(TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
I love the acerbic wit of Gibbons' Cold Comfort Farm, but am surprised at what a bitter, derisive book this is in comparison. Gibbon's scorn for all her characters permeates each page, and she is so contemptuous of them all that this becomes an increasingly unpleasant read.

Some characters we expect, in pantomime fashion, to be metaphorically booed: Mr Wither with his small-mindedness, his parsimony and bullying, for example. But Gibbons treats everyone here with the same malice. The two Wither daughters, 35 and 40, unmarried and living at home with their parents, show themselves to be uncharmingly childlike (Madge, nearly 40, sobs over the dinner table because her father won't let her have a puppy) and never quite forgive their sister-in-law for once being a shop-girl. Viola is uneducated and shown up to be dim and unsympathetic as she looks down on Madge and Tina for being old spinsters and, despite having been a shop-girl, despises Saxon, the chauffeur, for being 'only a local boy whose people had come down in the world'. Even Hetty, the quirky girl with her books and her dreaming ends up saddled with the 'most miserable of affairs' with an unwashed, gaunt modernist genius: 'their lovemaking is like the snarling of two dogs; tenderness is unthinkable; there must be nothing but lust and merciless sincerity'.

Gibbons isn't simply inverting a typical Cinderella-style romance, she is doing something far more cynical here, epitomised by the ending where there may be a swathe of marriages but their future is shown to be less than blissful - and the only happy one is where the bride and groom are deemed too foolish to be anything else.

So this is elegantly written but is not witty enough to be sparkling satire (in Jane Austen fashion) but instead is far more embittered, even hostile - and reading this left an increasingly nasty taste in my mouth.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A cinderella for the 1930s, 23 Nov 2010
This review is from: Nightingale Wood (VMC) (Paperback)
This is one of the most entertaining of Stella Gibbons's "other" novels, ie apart from "Cold Comfort Farm". It is an elegant reworking of the Cinderella myth but for the 1930's, complete with "roadhouses", sealyham dogs, art moderne decor and mild anti-semitism (which Gibbons exposes and excoriates). The satire may be mild, but it has the occasional hard edge. The introduction by Sophie Dahl is fine, even though most of the points it makes have been borrowed unacknowledged (and sometimes verbatim) from the 1998 biography of Stella Gibbons "Out of the Woodshed".
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The very best kind of souffle!, 15 Feb 2010
By 
Jill Besterman (Jersey, Channel Islands United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Nightingale Wood (VMC) (Paperback)
This is such a fun book to read. Lightly and delicately it traces the lives and loves of Mr Withers and his family of women, the staunch if slightly bewildered Mrs Withers, his daughters Madge and Tina, each fighting approaching spinsterhood in her own way, and his daughter-in-law Viola, widowed very young and panicked by the thought of having nothing to look forward to in the years to come. The more upmarket neighbours, Victor Spring, his socially-minded mother, blue-stocking cousin Hetty and rather terrifying fiancee Phyllis also play their roles in the lives of the Withers, as does Saxon, Mr Withers' Adonis-like chauffeur. Written, I am sure, with her tongue firmly in her cheek Stella Gibbons paints a water colour picture of life in the rural Home Counties in 1937, as we would all have wished it to be.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A delightful discovery, 2 July 2013
By 
Frances Stott (Devizes, Wiltshire) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)    (VINE VOICE)   
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
To my shame, I had only ever heard of Cold Comfort Farm from this author, so I was delighted to discover this lovely novel.

Viola, young and recently widowed, goes to live with her erstwhile in-laws, the joyless Mr. And Mrs. Withers. She has little money, and is therefore dependent on the family for home and board. At the beginning of the novel, the Withers have two adult unmarried daughters, verging on middle age and therefore compelled to live out their (very dull) lives with their parents, albeit unwillingly.

The characters spring off the page, and it would be hard not to sympathise with any of them. Even Mr. Withers, whose greatest pleasure lies in counting his own (and other people's) money, and whose moods rule the household with his relentless gloom, is not without a certain appeal (a bit like Mr. Wodhouse in Emma!).

Then the younger sister, Tina, brings sudden and glorious disgrace on the family, her sister Madge gets a dog, Viola falls in love and a major catastrophe occurs, and the fallout of these events affects and changes life for everyone.

This is a lovely book; warm, humorous and observant, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. If I have any complaint it would be the rather hasty tying up of loose ends at the end of the narrative, and some rather strange to-ing and fro-ing from present to future during the last big family event. But these are small niggles, and I have no hesitation in highly recommending this novel.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


22 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Nightingale Wood... should be reprinted..., 24 Sep 2002
By A Customer
This review is from: Nightingale Wood (Hardcover)
"Nightingale Wood" by Stella Gibbons is a book which deserves to be reprinted. I own an old battered copy which I treasure dearly. More than any other author she reminds me of Jane Austin. A similar sly humour and pithy comment in characterization.. This is the first book by Stella Gibbons I have read and have not met anyone else who has read it. I am eagerly seeking other books written by her of which the most well known is "Cold Comfort Farm" If you can get a copy of "Nightingale Wood" read it and you will love it.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


‹ Previous | 1 2 3 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

This product

Nightingale Wood (VMC)
Nightingale Wood (VMC) by Stella Gibbons (Paperback - 2 April 2009)
£7.99
In stock
Add to basket Add to wishlist
Only search this product's reviews