Confession time: I own several Jilly Cooper novels, starting from the 1980s blockbusters like Riders, to this recent book, Jump!, which was first released in 2010. Jilly Cooper's novels are a very guilty of pleasure of mine, however in my defence, as a horse lover I did primarily start reading them because a lot of them are set in the world of showjumping, polo, or as Jump! is, horse racing.
(And no, I didn't start reading them because they have a reputation for being a bit racy... no pun intended!)
Jump! is about Etta, who is recently widowed and forced to sell the house where she lived with her husband. She moves to a village and one day finds an injured filly in the nearby woods. She nurses the filly back to health, only to discover after a DNA test that the horse is a thoroughbred with a great racing pedigree. With the help of her new friends from the village, the filly enters some races and well, you can guess the rest I'm sure.
As with all Cooper's novels, along the way there are romances, affairs, and her usual ridiculous bawdy humour.
Jilly Cooper uses so many characters that there is always an extensive character list at the beginning of her books. This is very much a good thing as the amount of characters she uses is, I believe, excessive. Having several main characters is fine, but she includes characters that are fairly inconsequential to the plot, and really seem to serve no purpose other than to include them in scenes where there are parties or large gatherings. At times I found myself flicking back and forth to the front of the book where the character list is, trying to fathom who she was talking about. Not all the characters are given a physical description, and so with some you have to try and conjure up your own mental image of them, which can be a pain when there are just. too. many.
One thing I do like about Jilly Cooper, though, is that she is always bringing back characters from her older books. This might not be so good for people who are reading one of her books for the first time, but I would assume that if you have bought Jump! then it's fairly likely that you've already some knowledge of her previous novels. Therefore old favourites such as Rupert Campbell-Black and Billy Lloyd-Foxe are featured - having read their stories in previous novels like Riders and Rivals, you do feel some affection for them, and it's nice to catch up with them and their children's lives now in some recent novels; for example Billy Lloyd-Foxe's daughter Amber is a jockey in this novel.
Of course, all Cooper's novels are focused on the middle and upper classes. Almost all the 'good' characters are in support of hunting and Tory-supporting; whereas all the characters who are more to the left politically, or are in favour of animal rights, are generally portrayed as boring, unhygienic and generally insufferable. This does get on my nerves a lot but I guess that's the world that Jilly Cooper herself comes from.
ENJOYMENT AND EASE OF READING
At around 900 pages, this did take me several months to finish. I found that 200 pages had passed before I really started to get into it. It's not one of her best books but much better than previous novels Score! and Wicked; the latter of which was quite poor. However Jump! is much better purely because it's based in the 'horsey' world, just like her best novels Riders and Polo were. I think she should stick to writing about this subject, as anytime she tries to diversify away from that, it seems to fall a bit flat.
I found the story entertaining enough but I don't believe Cooper's novels sit very well in the modern world, and I did cringe a bit at some of her references to modern life. Her 1980s novels really suited that era, being all about rich, upper class people. I am not sure stories like that translate to this current decade.
WOULD I RECOMMEND?
I wouldn't recommend this book unless you had read and enjoyed Jilly Cooper's previous books. Somehow I keep buying them every time they are released, and if her next novel is also about horses, then I will probably buy that as well. I got this for £3.79 so I really can't complain. They are a bit of escapism, can be funny at times, and it's nice to revisit old characters from the 'classic' novels of the 1980s. As this took me quite a while to read, I can't deny I didn't get my money's worth.
I'd give this 3.5 stars if I could, but 3 it is.