Etta Bancroft – sweet, kind, still beautiful – adores racing and harbours a crush on one of its stars, the handsome, high-handed owner-trainer Rupert Campbell-Black. When her bullying husband dies, Etta’s selfish, ambitious children drag her from her lovely Dorset home to live in a hideous modern bungalow in the Cotswold village of Willowwood.
Etta’s life changes when, in the snow in nearby woods, she finds a horribly mutilated filly, which she names Mrs Wilkinson and nurses back to health. The filly charms everyone in the village, then tests reveal her to be a spectacularly well-bred racehorse. After a nail-biting court case, she is awarded to Etta, thus ensuring the lasting and vengeful enmity of her former trainer and owner. A village syndicate is formed to put the filly into training, consisting of a riotous mix of local characters, who set off to the races in a minibus clanking with bottles. Ridden by Rupert’s delectable god-daughter, Amber, Mrs Wilkinson captivates vast crowds as she progresses from point-to-point to major races and brings fame and fortune to the syndicate, until, at last, she is entered in the Grand National.
Can she be the first mare in over fifty years, and Amber the first woman ever, to win this mighty race?
I’m a relative newcomer to the world of Jilly Cooper, until reading Jump! the only book I had read of hers was Wicked! When I saw she had a new book coming out I knew it would be the next book of hers I chose.
Jump! is a return to the world of horse racing, bringing back much loved characters as well as introducing a whole raft of new ones. The pace varies throughout the book, I felt that at times it plodded along beautifully giving the characters time to develop and then with the turn of a page it would begin to pick up and race along for a while before steadying back down. I loved this aspect of the book, I think it worked very well particularly as the book is so long.
I fell in love with far too many characters to begin to talk about them all. I felt like I really got to know the characters well and I really cared about what happened to them. So many times I found myself wanting to shout at characters, particularly Etta’s selfish children. I found the characters to be believable, there were many who could have turned into stereotyped clichés but Cooper kept them on the right side of convincing. I also adored the non-human characters, particularly Chisolm the goat – her antics had me laughing out loud.
The plot worked very well for me, with such a cast of characters it needed to be involved enough to keep the reader interested without becoming over complicated. I don’t know much about horse racing and horse owning syndicates but that didn’t matter at all because everything that needed to be explained was covered.
Over the course of the book I laughed and I cried, I wanted to shake characters and I punched the air in delight. I absolutely loved this book and it’s increased my desire to go back to the days of Riders and Rivals and find out how it all began.