Wednesday 17 January 2018

Review: Jump by Jilly Cooper

Corgi, €9.99, Paperback

Jilly Cooper. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Jilly Cooper. Photo: Gerry Mooney

Her 16 novels have uncovered the steamy side of polo players, jockeys, classical musicians and head teachers. But having detailed their passionate exploits across thousands of pages over the past 25 years, Jilly Cooper (aka Jolly Super) says that she feels too old to continue writing about sex.

In a decision that will disappoint the many thousands of readers whose summer holidays revolve around a copy of her latest book and a sun-lounger, the 74-year-old author says she has tried and failed to pen bedroom scenes involving elderly characters, and may not return to the subject again, which makes the appearance this week in paperback (all 928-pages of it) of her last book Jump! something of a milestone.

Asked if she found it easy to write about sex, she replied: "I don't think I can do it any more. In Jump! I thought I ought to try and tackle elderly sex but I did find it very difficult. I just think I was a bit tired and it's quite difficult to write sex scenes when you're tired."

Cooper explained that it had been a "nightmare" to finish the novel because she writes more slowly these days, had suffered several accidents during its composition and had been looking after her husband, Leo, who has Parkinson's disease.

"I'm much slower now. In fact, I can hardly remember what I've written on the last page, so I'm always rereading just to remind myself. And it's difficult because Leo was ill and I didn't get much sleep.

"It's so difficult to explain but it's a full-time thing, even with carers. I just think I got slower. And I broke my wrist while I was writing it. And my finger. Feather, my greyhound, took off when I was walking him on the lead."

She said that sometimes she still feels very young.

"I don't feel old . . . I think age is completely relative. Sometimes I feel 100 and sometimes I feel about 10. I still have these terrific crushes on people. I'm so knocked out by people. I know it sounds soppy."

But she added: "When you get older you suddenly realise you don't have long left. You've got to get going. I've always wanted to read all the books in the world but I won't ever be able to. It's frightening because I've always thought I'm going to live for ever, and I'm not."

In a further hint that she may abandon the famed 'bonkbuster' style of Riders, Polo and The Man Who Made Husbands Jealous, she said: "I'd like to write a good book, a proper good book. My mother always admired Margaret Drabble . . ."

However, some things do not change, and Cooper admitted she still writes on a "charismatic" old typewriter known as Monica, in the grounds of her 14th-century home in the Cotswolds.

'She came into her own last week when the whole of Gloucestershire had a power cut and I was typing away in the gazebo, oblivious, while everyone back in the house was effing and blinding and stumbling around in the darkness. Monica's wonderful. I've got a pair of scissors attached to her now so that I can do my own cutting and pasting."

Despite her characters' propensity to commit adultery, Cooper insists she believes in the institution of matrimony as it "makes you try harder".

However, she is unable to bless the union of Conservatives and Liberal Democrats that led to the coalition government in Britain.

"I'm terribly ashamed to say I'm profoundly disappointed by it. It's awful. I think we're having an awful time.

"I long for David Cameron to be happy and to do well but I think they're all too busy fighting each other."

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