Written by Mickey Noonan

Arts

Rated or dated: The Rutshire Chronicles

Standard Issue writers revisit an album/film/book/TV series to see if it’s stood the test of time. This week, Mickey Noonan gets passionate about The Rutshire Chronicles.

Jilly Cooper shelfWhat and why: Jilly Cooper’s seven-strong series of bonkbusters set in the aptly-named Rutshire, in which the ridicu-posh inhabitants spend their time being frightfully wealthy and chasing tail. Riders, Rivals, Polo, The Man Who Made Husbands Jealous, Apassionata, Score!, Pandora and Wicked!, span two decades (1985 to 2006) and are variously set in the worlds of showjumping, TV, polo, horse riding, classical music, film and opera, art and, erm, the education system. (She wrote Jump! in 2010 but it’s barely worth a mention.)

There’s a definite formula to Cooper’s storylines: ridiculously attractive person meets not conventionally attractive person. They fall in love. Life gets in the way. Life gets out of the way. Love conquers all. Illicit humping conquers quite a lot, too.

Scant regard for PC and a scathing approach to feminism (take this particularly choice quote from Score!: “Colin’s chestnut mare had furry legs like a feminist”), hasn’t stopped Cooper selling 12 million books and counting.

“Okay, cards on table: some of Cooper’s written romps genuinely give me the horn, the dirty old broad.”

Rated or dated: Rated. I mean they’re beyond dated, obviously, but still eminently readable. Delving into The Rutshire Chronicles is like stepping into a foreign land of long ago, where the males are Alpha, the women swoon and money flows like water. Pure escapism. Whenever an affaire ends, I reach for Riders. Then Rivals. Then Polo. Then… you get the gist. Cooper’s never-ending quest for romance and her firm belief that where there’s love there’s hope can sometimes make my eyebrows raise so high I look like I’ve had a dodgy facelift, but I end up smiling. And oddly hopeful once more.

Mainly it’s because Cooper is a fantastically smart and funny writer. Her beady social comedy still sparkles. This keen comic eye combined with the ability to turn a phrase sharper than a chef’s knife and a peppering of literary quotes and allusions, keeps the outrageously soppy romantic stuff and frankly hilarious sex scenes in check. Okay, cards on table: some of Cooper’s written romps genuinely give me the horn, the dirty old broad. Also, in Machiavellian maestro Roberto Rannaldini, she’s created one of the most deliciously dastardly villains ever to grace paper. Even his 5’6” stature doesn’t cut him down to size.

In real life, Cooper’s parade of hooray Henrys would make a working-class woman from Wigan reach for a poisoned pie, but curled under my duvet, they’re literary crack. Intellectual snobs may well look down on my well-thumbed Jilly Cooper collection. They can go whistle. I’m going back to Rutshire.

@MicksterNoonan

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Written by Mickey Noonan

Aged five, Mickey Noonan shoved an apple pip up her nose to see what happened. Older, wiser but sadly without a nose-tree, Standard Issue's editor remains curious about the world. Likes running, jumping and static trapeze.