by Jilly Cooper
This was a very engrossing book, kind of like anticipating a train wreck. I couldn’t look away. It was definitely not in my usual wheelhouse. I had been wanting to try a Jilly Cooper for a long time, and finally, it was mentioned as a favorite book of a lovely girl in a book I had recently finished reading, How to Find Love in a Bookshop. So that provided the impetus. If Alice loved it, how bad could it be?
What a crazy and mostly fun book! Every time I picked it up it was with fear and trembling. Every time you think the main baddie, Rupert Campbell-Black, couldn’t get any worse and cause anymore suffering, he managed to top himself. It seems like a lot of reviewers secretly kind of like him, calling him “roguish”, “sexy”, or a “rascal”. I just thought he was disgusting. Yes, I had to laugh sometimes over some of the cracks that came out of his mouth.
“ How can I ever hold my head up in the village shop again?”
“Ask them to deliver.”
But I could never forget how cruelly he treated his horses. Billy is another character people seem to think of fondly. He had a good heart, I guess, but he never stood up to Rupert or, as may be the one person Rupert would listen to, held him accountable. No one held Rupert accountable for anything. No human, that is. He just went on wreaking havoc and being heinous, with no tinge of guilt or hope of change. As for Billy, he never grew up. I honestly couldn’t believe it when he took slatternly Janey back over Fen. But I lost all hope for him after Kenya.
All of the characters were very flawed or made horrible mistakes. It was sometimes maddening and sometimes heartbreaking. I did root for Jake, Tory, and Fen throughout almost all of the book. Jake was definitely a good guy but for his rather out-of-character fall from grace towards the end of the book. I was so disappointed in him, I almost didn’t care if he had a happy ending, but was pleased for Tory. Fen was very stupid a couple of times, but she was only a kid. And she could have been a lot stupider on a few occasions. She ended up being worthy of the one unadulterated (no pun intended) good guy in the novel, Dino Ferranti.
Helen. What can I say about Rupert’s unfortunate wife? What a genius creation by Jilly Cooper. I can’t think of any fictional character that went from kind, admirable and lovable at the beginning of a book to hateful, pitiful, and contemptible by the end. Rupert never changed. But Helen’s devolution was done brilliantly: slowly but surely, one step at a time. It kind of reminded me of The Picture of Dorian Gray.
I enjoyed the over-the-top characterizations and the witty banter and social commentary. And I think I will try the next book in the series, Rivals. Apparently, Rupert is somewhat redeemed in that one. I guess I better be prepared to get out my “suspension of disbelief” for the retcon of R C-B.
August 9, 2021