book review: Jump! by Jilly Cooper

When Jump by the lovely Jilly Cooper was released, I rushed (in the manner of a Jilly heroine) to the shops to buy a copy. I put it to one side, in a delaying-gratification sort of way, and somehow (I have an excuse – I was writing a book) several months passed.

This morning on the way to school we were chatting about books. No2 child is reading Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, and explained to no1 that he was on page 11, ‘but nothing much is happening really, yet, so it’s a bit dull.’ No1 child said ‘Ah, you see I think that’s why J.K. Rowling is so successful, because all of her books are a bit like that. They start off really boring, but if you keep going they get good.’

Jilly Cooper book - Jump

Mmm, I thought. Jilly Cooper is my favourite writer, ever. But she too has a habit of writing books which take a while to get into. I suppose when you’re a bestselling author you can do that. Her latest novel, Jump! is based in the world of horse-racing. I spent quite a long time – probably the first third of the book – waiting to be gripped. The main character, Etta Bancroft, is very nice, but a bit of a weed. That’s a bit unfair, I suppose. She’s spent years being squashed by a horrible man and her vile children. But I wanted to jump into the pages and give her a shake. She does improve, I am happy to say, and it is very lovely to have a main character who isn’t a lithe young goddess of foxitude. And as ever, Jilly’s characters are beautifully drawn, both human and animal. It’s a testament to her writing (Jilly’s books are right up there on my comfort reading list that characters she first wrote years ago (Rupert Campbell-Black and Billy and Janey Lloyd-Foxe) have stayed so alive that when she brings them back into the story, they are real and not just cardboard cut-outs.

There is a strong focus on the world of racing, which Jilly has researched thoroughly, and her depictions of the highs and lows of a training yard are wonderful. It’s a bit like a Pullein-Thompson for grown-ups, really, and I can imagine that the numbers of people joining racing syndicates will be rising like – well, if I were Jilly I’d make a naughty pun here, but I won’t. Nobody does them quite like Jilly Cooper.

There’s a point about three-quarters of the way through where she dashes through a fairly long period of time in about a chapter. I felt she was going ‘come on, come on’ and dying to get to the next part – and when it happens, well, you can see why. You’ll have to read the book to see what I mean, but when old blue eyes comes back on the scene, Jilly’s writing picks up with the verve and wit for which she is known. Every word is a delight. And when Jilly does death, she does it beautifully. I cried buckets (again in the manner of a Jilly heroine), and had to stop for a cup of tea and compose myself.

Jump! by Jilly Cooper – it’s a litte bit slow out of the starting gates, but finds its feet and races to the finish, leaving the rest of the pack standing*.

*I’m sorry, I couldn’t resist that


  1. Great review!
    I have Jump sat on my bed-side table. I’ve had it there since I received it for Christmas. Just like you, I’m delaying the moment when I eventually open it. A bit like taking in a wondrous view before leaning forwards and setting off down the ski-slopes on an exhilerating journey. To my mind, the sooner I start it, the sooner I finish it – and oh! I’ve waited so long for it to be published.
    My heroine Tess, in Lies and Linguine, dreams of meeting a man like Rupert Campbell-Black. Who cares about the real-life actors/singers out there. There’s no-one quite like Rupert!
    Thank you for the review, I might just take a peak later!

  2. Oooh! Dust it have Rupert Campbell-Black in it??? *must buy*

  3. Yes, he’s worth the wait!

  4. I was a bit disappointed on the first read – I guess I’ll get into it as I come back to it but it was a bit slow and then too fast…

    Still I guess part of the problem is the anticipation build up which does have a tendency to leave you disappointed

  5. Yes, I think it’s one that will improve on second reading. But I howled at the sad bit. Oh, sobbed and sobbed. Sniff.

  6. Ooh do! It is lovely. And who doesn’t dream about the gorgeous R C-B? Swoon.

  7. I ADORE Jilly – both her writing, and her personally. I’ve been fortunate enough to meet her a couple of times, and we’ve exchanged letters and spoken on the phone. She’s a good friend of a family member, and a neighbour of mine, so I find myself searching for (and finding) people I know in her books. She said the sweetest thing to me once, when I told her that I wanted to be a successful novelist. It was SO Jilly. It’s a bit self-serving to share it, so I won’t, but it keeps me on track when I get lost.

    Great post.


  8. I laughed when you said you reserved Jilly for times when you need comfort reading as that’s what I do too! Although her plots can take time to get going, her vigour and warmth make her a writer to treasure. I adored Pullein Thompsons too. Ruby Ferguson, anyone?