Sometimes there's nothing better than indulging in a bit of guilty pleasure. For me, there is no pleasure more guilty than a bit of Jilly C.
In my view, Jilly Cooper is where chicklit begins and ends. Her characters are silly and frivolous and their world utterly incomprehensible to the everyday 21st century woman, but it's brilliantly escapist. Her heroines are glamorous, beautiful and sophisticated and they know it. They all date knee-weakeningly handsome men called Pendle or Lazlo. I know it's trashy and I know it's silly, but I just can't resist!
Part of her girls' names series, Prudence follows the same delicious formula as the rest of Jilly's novels. Prudence is a glamorous girl about town, spending her time in 1970s Chelsea attending oodles of fabulous parties. At one more dull affair she meets the dashing and aloof (textbook Jilly) Pendle Mulholland. After showing a little too much enthusiasm on their first encounter, Pendle blows cold. Prudence is confused, but delighted when he invites her to meet his family. Is she finally getting through to him?
His family, of course, are riotous and seem to be more interested in each other's partners than their own. The house is a chaotic world of parties and glamorous guests and Prudence finds herself in the middle of some curious family skeletons tumbling out the closet. The Mullhollands are all handsome and dashing and Prudence becomes increasingly intrigued by Pendle's woman-chasing brother Jack and elusive Ace (yes, really...).
The plot is full of twists and turns, all brilliantly over the top, and fast-paced. One needs to completely suspend disbelief, but for me Prudence was one of my favourites in the series. It is pure, unadulterated escapism which I found myself racing through. Even at its most ludicrous (who on earth is called Pendle or Ace in real life??), it is always entertaining.
Don't get me wrong, the book is terribly dated in places (I did find my eyes widening at some of the less PC remarks which would definitely not make it through an edit in contemporary chicklit!). However, it's so refreshing from much of the post-Bridget Jones women's fiction of today. Jilly's heroines are confident, strong and have great self belief. There is no calorie counting and fretting about appearance; in the land of Jilly, there is nothing that can't be fixed with a bit of lipstick, a stiff drink and a quick wash of the hair.
Sure, it's hardly the definition of feminism but it's fun. When immersed in this book I was no longer packed into a Tube carriage, I was at a fabulous party with handsome, improbably-named men. So, if you're looking for a bit of fun, definitely give this a try!
(Available in paperback and ebook from the Random House website)