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Riders - Jilly Cooper Book Club

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JillyCooperBookClub Mon 14-Mar-16 09:53:41

It was a perfect spring day. Thickening crimson buds fretted a love-in-the-mist blue sky. The banks were draped with crocuses of the same Lenten purple as the altar cloth. A host of golden daffodils, retarded by the bitter winter, had just reached their prime and nodded their pale heads in approval.

Thus Helen falls for Rupert, and I fell for Jilly Cooper: against our upbringing and our better judgement, and despite every single red flag.

Riders wasn't my first Jilly Cooper, but the first I sought out, after a few stolen pages of another under dappled sun on Guide Camp as a teenager.

It starts deceptively happily, with gymkhanas and very proper sexless dates. But we mustn't be fooled: at every point every character is being judged by every other, and found wanting. Character flaws, damaging childhoods, trauma and tragedy: frankly it's a wonder any one of them made it to adulthood.

Rupert's friendship with Billy predates the neglect and misery of his childhood, so unsurprisingly it is the only healthy and unconditional human relationship he has.

There couldn't be much wrong with Rupert if he inspired friendship like this.

Rupert shivered, suddenly reminded of the desolation of Sunday nights at school, summoned by bells to Evensong, followed by cold ham and bread and marge for supper, and everyone else coming back feeling homesick from days out with their parents. Rupert had never really had a proper home to feel sick about.

And indeed it will be some years before he finds one.

We discussed on the general thread that Rupert is a bit, well, rapey. In Riders he has precisely zero respect for any woman's body autonomy (the very first time he and Helen meet he thrusts his hand into her jumper) and once he has any declared rights over a woman he takes absolute possession of her body.

With a colossal feeling of triumph he pushed her back on to the bed and began to move downwards, kissing her ribs, then her belly.

"No," she gasped, grabbing his head.

Firmly he removed her hands. "Shut up. You're mine now, to do exactly what I like with."

The foursome in Kenya is deeply, deeply troubling. Billy doesn't seem to realise how unwilling Helen is until he has raped her; Rupert is more concerned with how his friends will perceive them, and his response to finding her as dry as a marathon runner's throat is to declare her "useless"; Janey is so turned on by Rupert she doesn't stop to think about it. All three of them assault her together, until she escapes.

Any minute she expected an enraged Rupert to appear and drag her back to the torture chamber.

But the others were enjoying themselves. [...] Playing games of their own, they carried on till morning.

Days later, she falls for Jake: physically and romantically the exact opposite of Rupert. It was inevitable, surely, and as little as I like her I have the greatest sympathy. But I'll never forgive Jake as long as I live.

When I first read Riders I identified strongly with Tory. Poor unloved Tory - considered a fat failure, whilst in truth neither fat nor failing. Jilly is horribly judgemental about an ounce of spare fat on anyone, but she shows us that however miserable Tory might be, she is beautiful and perfect:

She was tallish and big boned, with a huge bust that bounced up and down as she walked. However she stood on the scales, she weighed eleven stone.

(Note: at 5'8", "tallish", that's a BMI of 23.4, and she promptly loses nine pounds when she falls in love, taking her to 22.5)

Actually she was much less far without her clothes on; rather splendid, in fact.

Tory is capable and loyal and loving and stoic and all the characteristics of a balanced human being. She doesn't expect Jake to love her; it's enough that she loves him.

"She loved you," said Fen bitterly. "Isa, Darklis, me, the horses, Wolf, were only extensions of how much she loved you. She knew you didn't love her, but she felt you needed her. That made life easier, that was enough."

"Oh, Christ," Jake groaned, putting his head in his hands. "I only realised in LA how much I loved her. [...] She always seemed so strong that she could cope with anything. I didn't realise I meant so much to her."


Frantic, he took her in his arms, trying to warm some life into the frail body.

"Don't die," he pleaded for the thousandth time. "Please don't die."

"Jake," came the faintest, faintest whisper.

I was going to talk about snobbery and class, and the animals, and the culture of celebrity, and the freedom of wealth, and Billy, and Malise, and political marriages, and fidelity, but I can't, because tears are streaming down my face yet again and my nose is running. So to cheer myself up, and to evidence Jilly's brilliance, I'll leave you with my favourite exchange:

"Will it be very fancy tonight?"
"Not particularly."
"Shall I wear pants?
Rupert's eyes gleamed. That was getting somewhere. "Certainly not," he said.
"Chicken, you are wearing pants. What's this?" he pinged the elastic."
"Panties," said Helen quickly. "You thought I'd go to a party without panties?"

OP’s posts: |
BeautifulMaudOHara Mon 14-Mar-16 11:11:49

Hello! Will be back later darlings

BeautifulMaudOHara Mon 14-Mar-16 11:26:38

Are there spoilers? I think there are < covers eyes >

JillyCooperBookClub Mon 14-Mar-16 13:10:33

Oh yes, lots!

::sloshes gin into teacups::

OP’s posts: |
LadyMonicaBaddingham Mon 14-Mar-16 13:51:34

^"Nigel", she went on earnestly, "has not eaten anything that moves for ten years ."
"Not even jelly?" asked Rupert.
Helen tried to look disapproving and giggled. "You're impossible. "^

Off to slosh some Fernet Branca into a toothmug...

MrsHathaway Mon 14-Mar-16 13:53:04

"Not even jelly?"


(OP here with my unofficial hat on)

That's just after a fart joke, too.

CallMeMousie Mon 14-Mar-16 14:58:37

Oh I haven't started reading yet but not sure I need to. Springtime is such a Jilly time of year don't you think? So many plants thrusting and streams bubbling, so many opportunities for innuendo. Must try to find time to escape the baby and enjoy a bit of RCB tonight!

JustPoppingIn Mon 14-Mar-16 17:18:21

I have re read it. I found the rape awful, especially Billy for going along with it and Janey for seemingly encouraging it.

I first read and loved the book on my late teens before mobile phones ruled everyone's lives. Re reading this, I kept on thinking how different the story would be in a mobile age.

But I loved re reading this and I will again. I loved the description of the horses and I have never watched show jumping in my life.

Paperblank Mon 14-Mar-16 17:46:20


and I STILL need to come up with a Jolly Jilly name

BeautifulMaudOHara Mon 14-Mar-16 18:28:34

I'm about a third of the way through, I think Billy is about to meet Janey, he thinks some journo called Jamie is about to interview him, ahhh

MrsHathaway Mon 14-Mar-16 18:36:21

Ooh Maud that's the best lunch ever.

ToryLovell Mon 14-Mar-16 18:49:09

<<twirls to show off new / old name>>

BeautifulMaudOHara Mon 14-Mar-16 18:56:37

Few thoughts so far:

God, they're all so YOUNG!

The descriptions of Gloucestershire are stunning, she's so fabulous at evoking the bosky countryside and just taking you there. Although I haven't come across the phrase 'rank sexy stench of wild garlic' yet - SURELY that's in there?!

Yep, the Tiffany girl is underage and I disapprove. Although all Billy did was take them to dinner and send them home.

Helen and Rupert seem such an improbable couple but he wanted some of her intellectual shine plus she wouldn't sleep with him so it is plausible. It's so obvious from the beginning that Malise is right for her.

Interesting the details you notice when you're reading it in middle age, rather than youth: I'm now interested in the redecorating Helen has had done at Penscombe (all very primrose yellow and chintzy by he sound of it) and I bet I didn't notice or care in my 20s!

I still luff Jilly.

BeautifulMaudOHara Mon 14-Mar-16 18:57:16

How on earth was ToryLovell not taken as a name?!

Diamogs Mon 14-Mar-16 19:07:46

Maud I had it from years back along with quite a few others

Diamogs Mon 14-Mar-16 19:08:04

NC fail

MoggieMealAl Mon 14-Mar-16 20:33:14

According to my Kindle I'm 40% of the way through. The British Show Jumping team are just getting back from the Colombia Olympics and Jake has just bought Macaulay from the Arabs.

The descriptions of Helen hating to have sex with Rupert (and faking orgasm to escape it) but needing to have him chase her made me feel quite sad. I had a relationship that was a little that way.

TaggieCampbellBlack Mon 14-Mar-16 21:05:21

My spiritual home!

FiveGoMadInDorset Mon 14-Mar-16 21:07:13

I have reread Riders and Rivals recently will catch up on Polo

Maladicta Mon 14-Mar-16 21:09:18

How did I miss this??!! Will get the Kindle fired up...

Sillysausage2 Mon 14-Mar-16 21:19:22

Going to bed to reread this for the 100th time, it was my first JC and my favourite

BeautifulMaudOHara Mon 14-Mar-16 21:22:39

Oh, I've just got to after the party at Penscombe where Rupert hates the carpet < trying not to add spoilers >>

That lunch is glorious and swoon at the article Jane writes about Billy

JillyTheDependableBoot Mon 14-Mar-16 22:08:49

OP, you write amazingly! Am a bit in love with you.

JillyTheDependableBoot Mon 14-Mar-16 22:17:34

I love the bit when Helen meets Rupert while she's out with the Antis and she says that the ploughed fields remind her of mince, and wonders if there will be shepherd's pie for lunch. JC loves shepherd's pie - Podge makes it for Rupert later on when they're shagging.

JillyTheDependableBoot Tue 15-Mar-16 00:40:45

In fact (I'm aware I'm talking to myself here) JC loves mash-topped pies of all kinds. In Rivals, Taggie makes cottage pie (I think - may also be shepherd's) for Patrick's party, and in Polo Daisy makes a fish pie for Violet, who eats all the scallops out of it so Ricky has to take them out for dinner. Awwww! Pie love!

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