To cheer up the tail end of this gloomy winter, I have been rereading a lot of Jilly Cooper. This is customary for me in times of stress, heartache, tiredness or illness – reading Jilly in a hot bath with a whisky makes everything seem just a tiny bit better.
They’re also quite good at helping me to make sense of the world. Honestly, there is something about their simplicity that really puts life into perspective.
Jilly’s main female characters largely fall into a few categories: the angels (Taggie O’Hara, Daisy Macleod, Imogen Brocklehurst – who are the world’s loveliest creatures, and usually get kicked around a bit before getting the bliss they deserve); the bitches (Cameron Cook, Octavia Brennen, Perdita Macleod – who are generally pretty awful, but usually damaged and saved by the love of a good man) and the minxes (Chessie France-Lynch, Janey Lloyd-Fox, Prudence* – fun but grubby and ‘staggeringly indiscreet’, with complicated love lives that are never fully resolved, even when they end up happily married to lovely men).
I’d love to be an angel, but – let’s face it – it’s never going to happen. And, delightful as they are, I’m far fonder of the minxes.
It’s no secret that my Jilly spirit animal is Janey Lloyd-Fox (and in my younger years it was definitely Prudence). Janey is a writer, married to the lovely Billy. She’s always described as pretty but scruffy, with shaggy hair and sleepy eyes – although she can scrub up and be ‘frightfully glamorous’ on occasion – with smudged eyeliner, an extra half-stone that she can never quite shift due to her fondness for long gossipy lunches, and drinking and smoking habits she can never quite kick. She’s bitchy but good-hearted and charming.
I even always liked Chessie – Ricky France-Lynch’s errant wife, who totally fucks him over by running off with the evil Bart Alderton and then sets him all sorts of Sisyphean tasks to try and win her back (come on, you’ve got to admire her balls, at least). She’s manically skinny, mean, full of weird fetishes and totally bonkers – I wish she was my best friend.
Yeah, maybe I should aspire to be more angelic. But where’s the fun in that? Who would you rather go to lunch with?
* Did Pru have a surname? All the other “name” girls did. Pru is my favourite of them all, and if she did have one, I don’t remember it – weird. I suppose she became Prudence Mulholland when she married Ace anyway.