When I read that there was a new Jilly Cooper book due out, I was – excited would be too much, but interested definitely. Despite being disappointed with her last couple of books, I had hoped that this book would see a return to the JC of Rivals and Riders.
The first book that I read of the Rutshire series was Rivals which I read when I was about 16 years old. Jilly Cooper wrote books that were different, more adult than the books I had been reading until then. There were racy scenes that made me hide in my bedroom, embarrassed to be seen by my Dad while reading and there were funny scenes that made me laugh out loud, long before anyone had thought up the abbreviation LOL.
Not being able to wait for a hardback copy to wing its way to me, I promptly downloaded Jump! onto my Kindle. First thought was that I dislike books with an explanation mark in the title. Call me fussy, but it always reminds me of people who write, “I am a crazy girl, lol!!” on their Facebook page. Jump! just seems to be trying too hard.
Second disappointment was the map of the area in which Jump! is set. The print was too small and it was very difficult to read. Not a problem in the hardback book, I am sure but not good on the Kindle. The following list of characters almost made me switch the Kindle off. Jilly is known for her long list of characters with funny nicknames but Jump! takes this to a whole new level. There were so many characters that I was sure that I would not be able to remember who was who.
Reading a hard back, this would have been less of a problem but flicking back and forward on the Kindle is a pain. As I started to read, I could see that I would be doing this often. There are just too many people in this book and many of them are not needed for the plot.
The plot. Well, doormat wife Etta Bancroft (think Kitty from The Man Who Made Husband Jealous, 30 years on, but prettier) is widowed when her domineering and controlling husband dies. Her money-grasping children sell the house from under her feet and set her up in a horrible small cottage near their homes so as to abuse her loyalty by making her care for their children. Doormat Etta finds a seriously maltreated horse near to her home, nurses the horse, Mrs Wilkinson, back to life – in the home of a local MrBig, Valent Edwards, a widower in his 60s. When Mrs Wilkinson shows promise as a race horse, a syndicate of friends and neighbours raise the money to pay for training and racing of the horse.
There follows a tale of ambitious jockeys and horse owners. Jilly’s most popular hero, Rupert Campbell-Black puts in an appearance with his delectable wife, Taggie. Billy Llyod-Foxe’s daughter Amber is drafted in as a jockey, Dora Belevedere is introduced at the beginning of the book but seems to be forgotten about half way though.
Etta’s granddaughter Trixie was in one scene that made me put the book down in disgust. Trixie was a not quite 16 year old girl, who was lured unwillingly into a foursome. When I write unwilling, I mean unwilling, not giving consent. For me this is abuse, pure and simple, and it was portrayed as normal people who were having a bit of a romp that went too far. Even when Trixie eventually confided in Amber, she was not told that she should report the abuse, the rape. Is it any wonder that the rape conviction rate is so low in UK if this is how popular culture views sexual abuse?
If the above scene had not been included, then I might have overlooked the cast of hundreds, the cliched story line, the fact that JC is overly reliant on spiky adolescent girls with a wicked sense of humour – I cannot even tell them apart anymore – Amber, Trixie, Dora, Caitlin, Perdita… all very much of a sameness. I read to the end, but without much enthusiasm.
The book reads like it has been assembled from cuttings from previous books. As much as I loved Rivals and Riders, I have read them and I want to read something new from Jilly Cooper. Not just a cobbled together bunch of cliches and worn out characters. The heroine was such a wet dishcloth, the spunky girls bored me, the death of a well-loved character was a bit rushed – there was more attention paid to the horses who died. All in all, a disappointment.
Jump? By then end of the book, I would have preferred to Throw! it away.