"I'd never have written the big books in London." -- Jilly Cooper
Jilly Cooper, OBE (born 21 February 1937) is an English author. She started her career as a journalist and wrote numerous works of non-fiction before writing several romance novels, the first of which appeared in 1975. She is most famous for writing the six blockbuster novels Rutshire Chronicles.
"And I would really like to be a grandmother, but only when Felix or Emily meet the right person and are ready.""At home I have big vats of cabbage soup that I make to slim down.""But I always seem to finish a book and then think, oh God, I've got to pay a tax bill, so I'd better write a novel, so I tend not to stop and learn word processing.""But really I'm not terribly interested in what I eat.""For sheer sexiness, a man must be beautiful. Funny. yes. Clever, no.""I have a theory that the secret of marital happiness is simple: drink in different pubs to your other half.""I live at home and, if I want to start work at 11 o'clock, I can.""I love the long grass coming up to meet the willows.""I think it bespeaks a generous nature, a man who can cook.""I was so flattered that someone wanted me to write a book, I said I would. It was published in 1969.""I would really like to spend more time with the family. Every time I go abroad I miss them all dreadfully.""I wrote my earliest piece for The Sunday Times about being a young wife.""I'm basically a very happy person and I don't have to be anybody else.""I've got a book coming out soon so I just must get some weight off.""If you look across the valley, you can see exactly what I mean: about four beautiful houses, and you think something is happening in each of them. It's like a mural.""It must be a terrible pressure to have to go to the office.""Leo, sadly, has Parkinson's, but he used to cook all sorts of dazzling things.""My own parents loved each other very much.""Never drink black coffee at lunch; it will keep you awake all afternoon.""The bank told us we ought to sell this house to pay off our overdraft. Riders saved the day. I was so pleased when it got to number one, I went all around the fields crying and crying.""The male is a domestic animal which, if treated with firmness and kindness, can be trained to do most things.""There is nothing more attractive than a man who is not a New Man.""You've simply got to go on and on with your family and friends and tell them how much you love them because you never know whether they'll be there tomorrow, do you?"
Jilly Cooper was born in Hornchurch, Essex, England, to Brigadier W.B. Sallitt, OBE, and Mary Elaine Whincup.She grew up in Ilkley and Surrey, and was educated at the Moorfield School in Ilkley and the Godolphin School in Salisbury.
After unsuccessfully trying to start a career in the British national press, Cooper became a junior reporter for The Middlesex Independent, based in Brentford. She worked for the paper from 1957 to 1959. Subsequently, she worked as an account executive, copywriter, publisher's reader and even a receptionist.
Her break came with a chance meeting at a dinner party. The editor of The Sunday Times Magazine was impressed by the honest and frank way that she talked about her life as a young housewife, and asked her to write a feature about her experiences. This led to a column in which Cooper wrote about marriage, sex and housework with an openness uncommon for the time. That column ran from 1969 to 1982, when she moved to The Mail on Sunday, where she worked for another five years.
Cooper’s first column led to the publication of her first book, How to Stay Married in 1969, and which was quickly followed by a guide to working life, How to Survive from Nine to Five in 1970. These were successful enough to merit some of her journalism being collected into a single volume, Jolly Super, in 1971. Her continuing success led to several similar volumes being issued.
The theme of class dominates much of her writing and her non-fiction is written from a distinct upper middle-class British perspective, focusing on the relationships between men and women, and matters of social class in contemporary Britain.
In 1975, Cooper published her first work of romantic fiction, Emily. It was based on a short story she wrote for a teenage magazine, as were the subsequent romances (all titled with female names). She also wrote a series of children’s books featuring the heroine Little Mabel.
However, Cooper's best-known works are her extremely long blockbuster novels. The first of these was Riders (1985), an international bestseller, and the first volume of Rutshire Chronicles. The first version of Riders was written by 1970, but shortly after Cooper had finished it, she took it with her into the West End of London and left the manuscript on a bus. The London Evening Standard put out an appeal, but it was never found. She was, she says, "devastated", and it took her more than a decade to start it again.
Riders and the following books are characterised by intricate plot, featuring multiple story lines and a large number of characters. (To help the reader keep track, each book begins with a list and brief description of the characters) Although the books do not always follow each other sequentially - Rivals and Polo chronologically overlap, for example - they are linked by recurring characters (chiefly Rupert Campbell-Black, Roberto Rannaldini, and their families) and later books make reference to events of previous books. Therefore the greatest enjoyment is gained from reading them in the order in which they were written, although the books do make sense as 'stand alone' novels.
The stories heavily feature adultery, (sexual) infidelity and general betrayal, melodramatic misunderstandings and emotions, money worries and domestic upheavals.
Each book of the Rutshire Chronicles is set in a milieu that can be considered glamorous and wealthy, such as show jumping or classical music. These aspects are contrasted with details of the characters' domestic lives, which are often far from glamorous.
Her novel Pandora is not one of the Rutshire Chronicles, but does feature a few characters from the series, and is very similar in style and content. Wicked! follows the same approach, including characters from previous novels and introducing new characters who are relatives, friends or rivals of existing characters. It is set in the fictional county of Larkshire, which borders her other fictional county, Rutshire.
Her most recent novel is Jump! which features characters from Rutshire Chronicles in the world of jump racing.
As with her non-fiction works, Cooper draws heavily on her own point of view and experiences. For example, her own house is the model for Rupert Campbell-Black's: both are very old (although his is larger); her house overlooks a valley called the Toadsmore, and his overlooks a valley called the Frogsmore. She also draws on her love of animals — dogs and horses feature heavily in her books — and the British countryside.
In 1961, Jilly married Leo Cooper, a publisher of military history books. The couple have known each other since 1945 (when Jilly was about eight), although they did not marry until she was 24 and he was 27. Cooper was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease in 2002. They adopted two children, Emily and Felix, now adults.
The writer was involved in the Ladbroke Grove rail crash. She was a passenger in one of the derailed carriages and had to crawl through a window to escape. She later spoke of feeling that her "number was up" and of being absurdly concerned, due to shock, about a manuscript she had been carrying.
Jilly Cooper lives in Bisley, near Stroud in Gloucestershire.