This is MY FAVORITE, you guys! The reason this club even exists is just so we could read Riders. Because, embarrassingly, I am a member of the (in my case, completely un-talented) horsey set. I don’t jump, or anything, because I’m a pussy, but my mare and I like to get dressed up super fancy-like and prance around dressage arenas pretending to be, you know, glorified merry-go-round versions of National Velvet. Generally: more squealing, substantially less cocaine.
But Riders is the greatest. It’s the greatest even if you don’t know who all these people are supposed to be based on, which apparently you would if you hotly followed the exciting world of international Grand Prix show-jumping. Jilly Cooper has caused marriages to be torn asunder, fisticuffs at the arena gate, the whole deal. And they still gave her an OBE, which tells you a tremendous amount about the Queen’s taste in awesome, awesome literature. After Riders, there’s a whole laundry list of other books with some of the same characters, but we really don’t care about those.
So who are we dealing with?:
Jake Lovell: Plucky schemer from the lower classes, part gypsy. Show jumping rival of…
Rupert Campbell-Black: What? Do you need his character explained to you? He has a double-barreled last name and he’s in all the books. We don’t like him.
Fenella Maxwell: Rich, eventually hot, rides.
Tory Maxwell: Rich, sweet, not hot, can’t ride, obsessed with Jake, who marries her for her money.
Helen Macauley: Hot, American, lousy in bed, can’t ride, stolen from a dullsville hunt protestor by Rupert.
Billy Lloyd-Foxe: Rivals with Jake and Rupert, nicer, marries adorbs slatternly journalist, Janey.
And they all have sex and fight and ride and horse-swap and wife-swap until BOOM the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles happen out of nowhere and who will win?! (Jake, natch.) I’m going super-light on the tedious plot explication because Jilly Cooper is fab and all you really want is to get to the context-free excerpts. Also, of course: Is it any good? Absolutely! Jilly is totally decent — even if you haven’t had a lifelong inner monologue of “horsehorsehorsehorsehorse.” Although I fail to see what one thinks about otherwise. Math? Jogging? Philanthropy? The critique of pure reason?
Context-Free Excerpts From Riders
• “’Oh, please,’ she prayed, ‘give me Jake Lovell, and then I could buy him all the horses he wants.’”
• “’When you’ve got to take stupid women on long rides you develop a listener’s face.’”
• “For a small, slight man, Jake was sexually well endowed, but he spent enough time fingering a spot which Tory afterwards discovered was her clitoris, and she was so slippery with longing that she hardly felt any pain after that first sharp thrust inside her.”
• “The place was filthy and reeked of a tomcat, which her landlady refused to castrate. The landlady also used the same dishcloth to wash up the cat’s plates and the humans’ plates. The food was awful; they seemed to eat carbohydrates with carbohydrates in England.”
• “The English men were a bitter disappointment, too. None of them looked like Darcy, or Rochester, or Heathcliff, or Burgo Fitzgerald, or Sebastian Flyte. None of them washed their hair often enough; she never dared look in their ears in the subway.”
• “’Hunting’s like adultery,’ he said. ‘Endless hanging about, interspersed with frenzied moments of excitement, very expensive and morally indefensible.’”
• “Wondering if she had a ginger bush, he felt the stirrings of lust. He’d tank her up at lunchtime and take her back to his mother’s house.”
• “He had enough experience of women to realize that if you backed off and were kind and considerate on a first occasion, they dropped into the palm of your hand on the next.”
• “Accustomed exclusively over the last five years to Tory’s bulk, Jake could hardly believe the slenderness of Marion’s thighs or the spring breasts which didn’t collapse under her armpits when she lay down.”
• “Billy looked down at his flaccid cock. ‘A bad workman blames his tool,’ he said.”
• “Making love to Hilary was like eating a pork pie when you were desperately hungry, then discovering by the date on the discarded wrapping that it should have been eaten a month before.”
Discussion Questions To Get Us Started
• If you were the Queen (who probably has little say in who receives OBEs), which terrible writer would you so honor in order to meet them for tea and corgis?
• Is it weird that most works of Classic Trash are, like, 900 pages long? And A Portrait Of The Artist As A Young Man is less than 300?
• Englishmen: yay or nay?
• Do you get super-upset when fictional characters run up their credit card debt? Because I always want to get all Suze Orman on them about it.
Meet back here in two weeks! Let’s read… hmm… oh, wow, do you want to pretend we’re teenage babysitters and found The Joy of Sex for the first time? NOT the new version. Let’s do it.
1974 photo of Cooper by Allan Warren, via Wikimedia Commons.