Monday, January 15, 2007

‘Wicked’ (Jilly Cooper)

Novels about schools are huge at the moment, with van de Ruit’s Spud a best-bestseller and Harris’s Gentlemen & Players an unexpectedly non-culinary delight.

Jilly Cooper’s Wicked, positioned as ‘A Tale of Two Schools’, is a heavily Anglicised version of the two. It brings together masters and mistresses, vested interests and vendettas, pupils and passions, and introduces a large cast of Cooper-characters who are, put simply, raving mad.

Some we’ve met before: Rupert Campbell-Black, ‘as bloody-minded as he is beautiful’; Hermione Harefield, a ‘seriously tiresome’ classical diva; and Cosmo Rannaldini, ‘warlord’ and teenage psychopath. Others are entirely new, and wonderful.

They come together on opposite sides of the quest to close troublesome Larkminster Comprehensive, and all sorts of delicious chaos, sticky controversy and dangerous love ensues.

Cooper’s getting better with age – and in her contemporary books, there are fewer horses than people, which is always nice. I’d even go so far as to suggest that Wicked, packed with eccentric personalities, bizarre events and crazy couplings, is her best novel yet.

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