Gibbons' wit suffuses this offbeat, Austen-inspired novel. First published in 1932, it's set in early twentieth century England, when the recently orphaned and consummate cosmopolitan young Flora Poste resolves to rely on the generosity of her country cousins, and furthermore, adjust their lives to her convenience.
Flora remarks to a friend:
I am only nineteen, but I have already observed that whereas there still lingers some absurd prejudice against living on one's friends, no limits are set, either by society or by one's own conscience, to the amount one may impose upon one's relatives (15).
Zingers like these abound, and this gem and the one below were two of my personal favorites. In her equally amusing foreword, Gibbons notes that she has taken the liberty of starring her best passages according to a four-star rating system. Neither of the passages I picked were starred, so you can just imagine! Her quirks extend also to an inventive vocabulary--she refers frequently to "sukebind," a kind of crop whose flower leads to all manner of lascivious behavior. When I researched this mysterious plant, I discovered that it originated with Cold Comfort Farm, along with a number of other terms I'd thought were suspicious!
My other favorite passage, like the one above, has that wonderful ring to it of a truth you've never been quite able to express:
Mrs. Hawk-Monitor had combined two of the essentials for a successful ball (too many guests in a smallish room)...and the fact that most of the people who were present knew each other slightly, all the ingredients for success were present (159).Gibbons prefaces the novel with a quote from Mansfield Park: "Let other pens dwell on guilt and misery." And, indeed, she does.
Page numbers are from the Penguin 20th century classic TV tie-in edition, published in 1994, which I found in the library. Excuse me while I search for that made-for-TV movie.