Octavia, by Jilly Cooper

>> Friday, November 20, 2009

TITLE: Octavia
AUTHOR: Jilly Cooper

COPYRIGHT: 1977
PAGES: 190
PUBLISHER: Corgi

SETTING: 1970s England
TYPE: Fiction
SERIES: None

REASON FOR READING: Strange as it may seem, my school library had Jilly Cooper's entire backlist. I read them all, even though I intensely disliked most of them. The only one I had good memories about was Octavia, so when I saw it at a charity shop recently, I had to pick it up and see why that was.

As soon as Octavia caught a glimpse of Jeremy in the night club, she knew she just had to have him. It didn't matter that he had just got engaged to an old school friend of hers, plump, good-natured Gussie; he was looking at Octavia in the way that suggested bed rather than breakfast, and she was weak at the knees ... An invitation to join Gussie and Jeremy for a cosy weekend on a canal barge came like a gift from the gods: how could she fail to hook Jeremy? But the other part of the foursome was whizz-kid tycoon Gareth Llewellyn, a swarthy Welshman with all the tenderness of a scrum-half ... definitely not Octavia's type! And one way and another, he certainly managed to thwart her plans...
So why did I use to like this? Honestly, I've no idea. I couldn't make it past the first 50 pages this first time around.

Right at the beginning I was ok. Octavia is this poor little rich girl, completely amoral. When she runs into old school friend Gussie and her yummy new fiance, she decides she has to have him. Gussie is fat and square after all, so she practically deserves for Jeremy to be taken away from her. Octavia is not at all likeable, but I was looking forward to seeing how Cooper would go about developing her character.

The one thing about this bit was that I just couldn't take the book seriously, because it was, well, way too 70s. This is Charlie, Octavia's lover at the beginning of the book:

Charlie nodded enigmatically. With his Mexican bandit's face, pink suede suit and dark grey shirt, he looked both sinister and glamorous. No girl could be ashamed of being seen with Charlie.
And then they go home and have sex on Octavia's blond fur counterpane!

I stopped reading when Gareth Llewellyn is introduced. Jeremy and Gussie invite Octavia to spend a weekend with them on a canal barge, and Gussie makes efforts to matchmake by inviting Jeremy's business tycoon friend Gareth. This guy's the type of sensual brute so beloved by 70s romance novelists, the type who'll fuck everything that moves (it's presented as being soooo sexy, that) and mocks and is cruel to the heroine. I flipped forward to see what was coming and if I remember correctly, Octavia loses her money and is constantly humiliated by both circumstances and Gareth. Maybe with another hero this would have been fun, but I just couldn't stomach Gareth.

MY GRADE: A DNF.

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