As I mentioned in my previous post, I have just had a baby.

She is snuffly, limb-twitchy, peely-skinned: oh-so-new.  I am entranced. She has also reacquainted me with the hours between 10pm and 5am (and my toddler already has me well acquainted w ith 5am onwards.)  There’s only one thing to take you through those long night feeds, my friends – through those jiggly, bottom-patting hours of swaying and soothing.  And that thing is a trashy book.  Be warned, fair readers: this, and my subsequent posts, are all chick-lit.   But it’s Christmas, and what better time to treat yourself to books that cannot conceivably be described by that miserable term: “self-improving.”

Jilly Cooper is not cool, not fashionable.  Her puns are legendarily awful.  Her cast is excessive (she features a character-list at the front of each book and in this, her latest, the notorious Rupert Campbell Black’s 60th allows Cooper to list out basically ALL of the main characters of ALL of her novels as attendees at his party).  Since the original Big Three (Riders, Rivals, Polo – if you haven’t read any Cooper 1. what have you been doing with your life and 2. start with them) Cooper has been knocking out a novel every 5 years or so around a big theme – classical music, the art world, jump racing, schools.  These are not consistently successful – her last one was rather rubbish.  But I’m glad to say that Mount is a return to form, perhaps even earning a place in my top 5 Cooper novels (albeit number 5.) The big subject this time is flat racing and horse breeding – a success, as Cooper is in her comfort zone conjuring up amiable, lip-flapping, eccentric horses with their own little quirks, adored by the public (and the reader – there’s a famous part in Riders where I actually cried in relation to a horse – Cooper fans, you know what I’m talking about.)

But no need to be maudlin.  It is JOYFUL writing!  Everything is so lavish!  It is a parallel world, all Moet and smoked salmon, hedgerows “frothing” with elderflower (in fact, Cooper is most famous for her … enthusiastic … sex scenes, but I think the most remarkable thing about her writing is her effusive descriptions of the British countryside.)  I have no shame in saying I love to disappear into Cooper’s world.  The baddies are awful, the animals are bona fide characters in their own right, the drama is so non-political and unironic – pure escapism for those who like to escape to a posh, semi-fictional Gloucestershire with kind and dastardly (but always stunningly attractive) people with hearts of pure gold or stone respectively.

The lavishness continues to the word count – always long, with twisting turning plotlines and multiple character arcs.  It’s probably this that elevates Cooper beyond more standard page-turners: there’s no guessing the ending, because it’s not about the ending (no spoiler: it will end well for the good and bad for the wicked.)  It’s about the flavour of the journey.  For me, they are books you can open up and start straight over again if you want to, just to see the Cooper scenery another time.

There’s nothing that makes Mount that different to all of Cooper’s other novels – and that’s a wonderful thing.  You don’t WANT anything different from Cooper.  You want this joyful, abundant British romp, packed with horses and dogs and great food and sex and laughter and old money.  And if that doesn’t sound good to you, I don’t know what does.


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