This summer, one of my holidays (yes, I am very lucky and spoilt) was a week in Spain with my boyfriend and my grandmother. She has a lovely little house there, and the three of us spent a sunny, cosy, lazy and utterly blissful week together.
I sunbathed on the patio, ate near-constantly, drank gin and listened to Cat Power and De La Soul. I also found (I suspect, thanks to my cousin, a fellow fan) that there was a small stash of old Jilly Cooper books tucked away in a bureau drawer.
Well, I decided that this was the perfect climate for some treasured rereading, and thus my far worthier holiday selection fell by the wayside in an instant.
I reread Rivals (my all-time favourite), Riders (the original and best), and The Man Who Made Husbands Jealous (lots of fun). They are all stalwarts of my bookshelf, favourites since my teens, which I often dip in and out of (in the bath, when ill/depressed/hungover, etc.). However, this was the first time in some years that I had read them all in their entirety, cover to cover.
I enjoyed them more than ever and was genuinely pleased to find that they still hold up today and are better than pretty much anything similar (read: more recent rip-offs) put out there since.
My favourite recurring character – which probably says dreadful things about me, as she’s supposed to be such a slut – is Janey Lloyd Foxe, who I would like to be my best friend. I also fiercely love (in no particular order) Caitlin and Taggie O’Hara, Flora Seymour, Lizzie Vereker, Tory Lovell, Daisy France-Lynch. Then, of course, the men: Declan O’Hara, Billy Lloyd Foxe, David Hawkley (who I agreed with Georgie was far more attractive than his son), Archie Baddingham; although (shock horror) I never fancied Rupert Campbell-Black, I just like to think we’d be great mates. Like him and Janey, but without the extra holiday fun, ahem. Then, even more of course, there are the animals: Sailor, Beaver and Blue, Harold Evans, Maggie, Arthur, Tero, Mattie and Gertrude.
They really are all like old friends, or even family, by this point. I already knew it, but my rereading binge has truly reconfirmed it like a second honeymoon: Jilly is for life, not just for Christmas.