Flora Poste, who has had a privileged, expensive, athletic and lengthy education, is suddenly orphaned and left with only £100 a year to live on. She decides to descend on her relatives at Cold Comfort Farm in 'Howling' Sussex. There she finds the Starkadders, ruled by the ferocious Cousin Judith. Each of the four cousins has a peculiar character trait, there is no bathroom or telephone and the Starkadder women believe that pregnancy is "the hand of nature, and we women can't escape it". Flora feels it her duty to bring order into the Starkadders chaotic, bucolic lives.