Here’s my current To-Be-Read pile, hewn from the many heaps and shelves of patiently waiting books around the house. These are all mostly very recent novels, and that suits me fine. A bit of new and shiny sounds okay for October. We’re three-quarters of the way through 2013…!
The past week I’ve spent with a very new book – Eva Rice’s second novel, ‘The Misinterpretation of Tara Jupp.’ After a seven-something year wait I wasn’t disappointed with this – I think it tops even ‘The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets.’ For the first third, however, I wasn’t sure whether it wasn’t a bit slow to get going. The first two hundred pages contain a lot of set-up and languishing in Cornwall with Tara when she’s ten and living with her widowed vicar father and multiple siblings. There’s a lot of messing about with big houses and horses and big crushes on charismatic boys and doughty aunts and hearing about her singing talent… but not a lot seems to move for a little while.
I was told to give it time by several of the book’s fans and then, of course – it goes whoosh somewhere near the halfway point, when Tara and her sister are whisked off to London so that our heroine can become Cherry Merrywell and record her first single and take the burgeoning London scene by storm.
It’s a book of epic glitz and glamour. The Sixties start swinging and we get to be there at the dawn of it all – in a very privileged position, among very privileged people. Tara is a very lovable, headstrong character – who won’t be moulded into the teen sensation that her elders want. She shucks the dress and wears jodhpurs and a crumpled lace blouse to make her singing debut at a party. She’s so drunk she falls off the stool and then disappears with London’s top pop photographer and snogs him somewhere in Chelsea at dawn. Then, all of a sudden – she’s starring on Sunday Night at the Palladium and taking the country by storm.
Some of it seems too much of a fairytale – but at the same time, this is how it must have been for these heroic Sixties characters who became legends overnight. I love the scenes with the unnamed Rolling Stones playing their debut gig at the Marquee, where our principle characters are gathered to have their socks blown off. It’s a lovely piece of writing, capturing the tension and excitement as our cast of characters jump onto the tables to dance.
All this crazy metropolitan stuff contrasts so nicely with rural Cornwall, where everyone occasionally repairs to have high-octane heart-to-hearts in the mist, or to have crises and fall-outs and reunions and extremely dramatic childbirth scenes.
In the end – after reading through a couple of insomniac nights – I thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s a version of the early Sixties in which everyone in its large cast gets their just rewards and ends pretty happily. Many Sixties pop narratives tend towards the dark and nihilistic towards the decade’s end (Brian Jones’ presence in the book is a beguiling, stark presence and a reminder of how frail these young people really were in the eye of the storm.) Happily, though, Eva Rice seems to rescue all of her characters and ensures that everything is ok for them in the end and, unlike most in the fictional 1960s, they can, in fact, to misquote the Stones ‘get what they want’.