I am a great believer in the ‘best of its genre’ theory. Different, and some often-maligned, genres do not create a pecking order of artistic worth. Something that is at the top of its own game is at the top of its game on its merits, regardless of what it is being judged against.
Ergo, ‘Love, Actually’ is as great an artistic achievement as ‘The Godfather’ – both being absolute ‘best of their genre’ movies. Paul McCartney is as good at writing catchy pop songs as Beethoven was at writing a grand symphony.
This is where Jilly Cooper comes in. When it comes to romantic comedy she is the best of the best, and the cleverest of the witty. I cannot sing her praises loudly enough. Every piece of work she has ever done – from the gorgeous gems of short story in ‘Lisa and Co.’ to the epic blockbusters of the 80s and beyond – is a crafted work of art.
I think my personal favourites have to be the early ‘name’ books – slim slices of retro perfection, if you aks me (which you probably didn’t). I first read them when I was barely grazing my teens and have come back to them regularly over the years.
My top fave is ‘Prudence’. This is obviously because she is the most like me, but the beauty of Jilly is that you can always find a girl like you to which you can perfectly relate (see also: recurring character Flora Seymour and Rivals’ Caitlin O’Hara). For the same reason, my cousin’s favourite is ‘Imogen’. The fact that Prudence is a wisecracking bag of neuroses who isn’t as grown up as she likes to pretend to be and basically just effs-up in a variety of unsuitable outfits, and that Imogen is a busty librarian who is a bit shy but still manages to get pissed and fall into bed with the wrong men – well, it kind of tells you all you need to know about Niki and me, really.
And Jilly. Which is just that she is up there with the greats, as far as I’m concerned.