Thursday, August 6, 2015

Jump - Jilly Cooper

'Riders', 'Polo', and 'Rivals' era Jilly Cooper were for a long time my guilty pleasure of book choice - by the time she got to 'The Man Who Made Husbands Jealous' I was a bit less enthusiastic and from there on in less and less interested. I didn't bother at all with 'Wicked' but picked up 'Jump' because it was cheap and back in horsey territory. 'Rivals', 'Polo', etc haven't survived successive book culls but I kept 'Riders' because it's sort of a classic, saw me through more than one train journey from Leicester to Aberdeen, and I'm pretty sure I'd still love it if I read it again. I really wanted 'Jump' to be a return to form. It wasn't. 

Worse than being simply a mildly disappointing book there are things I really dislike about it. I could have dealt with it being almost a 1000 pages of mainly exposition and far to much about a goat mascot, the unlikely plot, the wonky time line (Rupert Campbell-Black, arch cad, can not be 56 if he started his show jumping career in the 1960's, it wouldn't have been a problem to put him in his more feasible 60's; grumbling about details like this are however an indicator of the books failure to grip) the annoying characters, and the endless poetry quotes and bad puns. I draw the line at a casual acceptance and brushing off of rape. 

Plot wise Etta, a widow at the latter end of her 60's and relict of a frankly abusive husband, has been dumped in a revolting bungalow by her even more revolting children when one night she finds a horrifically injured horse. She rescues it, nurses it back to health, discovers it comes from excellent racing stock, and eventually forms a village syndicate to race the mare now named Mrs Wilkinson, other stuff happens too. 

 'Riders' written in the '70's is undoubtedly a messy sort of a book, but it felt grounded in a world that Cooper knew, the very un-pc attitudes are at least part and parcel of their time, and the characters were vivid. In 'Jump' that's mostly missing. Nobody seems capable of remaining faithful, in the 30 years side 'Riders' was published divorce has lost the stigma that might still have been attached to it in the mid '80's making it far harder to understand why anybody would put up with the sort of wife who slept her way round the village, your work colleagues, clients, and friends then cleared off for a year before returning out of the blue to throw out your new girlfriend. It's even harder to understand why a successful, ruthless, business woman would tolerate a husband who failed to work, drank to much, neglected your child, and again slept his way round the village with seemingly no discretion what so ever. 

Cooper delights in being flouting politically correct attitudes so non of her women seem to be safe from some level of molestation but nothing excuses what happens when she sends them off to Stratford. It's not sexy to have an older man groom the 15 year old daughter of his friend for weeks on end before locking her in a room with a drunk jockey and an actress to involve her entirely against her, loudly declared, will in a foursome. It's rape. As is another character letting himself into a fellow syndicate members room and having sex with her whilst she sleeps. Definitely still rape. Definitely not sexy. 

There is some comeback for the actress when her outraged partner finds out what happened behind his back. Finally 150 odd pages after the incident he points out that she was only 15 so it would be a jail offence - as well as shitty publicity - if it came out, as he dumps her. For the man involved he has nothing but thanks for giving him an excuse to dump her. He's a paedophile rapist for heavens sake - not a charming but weak man - a sexual predator who is a danger to the community. The female jockey (Amber) who is in besotted by the other jockey involved wonders why she doesn't feel jealous about the whole thing when she hears about it. It doesn't occur to her that it's because it was rape and a man who habitually gets drunk and rapes underage girls in such a casual manner is probably not a good bet. 

So that's it, no come back on these men for their actions, no condemnation, no idea that this behaviour is problematical, much less that it's criminal. I can't help but wish I'd devoted the time to getting through a Trollope instead. 

6 comments:

  1. What a coincidence - I've just read and reviewed Polo, which was still very much in Riders mode and I enjoyed it, and although full of dodgy non-PC language, at least the heroine held off leaping into bed until she was legal. Jump sounds as if it goes too far.

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  2. I've just been reading your review! I tried to comment but not sure if it accepted it. I loved her books from Riders / Polo vintage though and spent a bit of time flicking through riders last night to see if it held up. I thought it did, silly but fun, and so much better than Jump that I really wish she'd stopped years ago. Don't think much of the new covers at all. There's no point being coy about the type of books they are.

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  3. Ew, that's not what I want in a book, which is sad as I have a soft spot for the Judith Krantz and Shirley Conran genre, so would presumably love the early Coopers.

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    1. Early Cooper is fun, she's a tremendous snob, but they work as period peices as much as anything. Late Cooper isn't worth the £1.99 I paid for this!

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  4. Was a fan for a long time, especially of some of her short novels before Riders came along, and thoroughly enjoyed Rivals, which I think was her best - but the later ones are awful, and Jump truly dreadful, couldn't get past about chapter 12. Somebody - her editor - should have taken her firmly in hand long, long ago, cut the length, the appalling attempts at reproducing any kind of regional accent in writing, the cack handed metaphors ...

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    1. They really should. Couldn't quite believe just how bad this one was, and on so many levels too. Still cross I wasted so much time on it!

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