What an infuriating book! Tsk! I could hardly put it down. If you read my review (was it really eight years ago?) of The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets you might think I didn’t like it much. In fact I love it, have re-read it and keep a copy with other comfort reading. I can see the same thing happening with Tara Jupp, although first I’ll have to get a copy, as this one came from the library.
The book is set mostly in 1962 (the year of Blowin’ In The Wind, BTW), and requires some suspension of disbelief. Tara is one of eight motherless children living in an old Cornish Rectory with their rather terrifying (but wise) father. Our heroine is a little scrap of a thing with a very big voice, which she uses to impersonate Alma Cogan and other well known singers. You have to believe that, aged seventeen and irritatingly naïve, she is invited to London to make a record and is immediately at the heart of what was to become Swinging London. You should have heard Jonathan Meades’ throwaway line on that subject in Bunkers, Brutalism and Bloodymindedness a couple of weeks ago. She is taken up by a photographer who seems based on Terence Donovan. Members of The Rolling Stones appear as themselves and Brian Jones is given a key role in the plot. Some of the characters from Lost Art reappear, living reinvented lives; Inigo is central to the story.
There is the occasional anachronism and far too much knowing hindsight (e.g. about the Euston Arch), which accounts for my tutting over the book. It's also irritating that every character considered attractive is unhealthily skinny. Nevertheless it is irresistible and reminiscent of Victoria Clayton’s adult novels. What really matters in Tara’s story is not social history (quite distorted), but people and houses. I defy anyone not to be charmed by the houses, intrigued by Tara’s family and its problems and in the end, hoping that true love will prevail for all. Yet again, Eva Rice has made me love a book against my will.