Friday, March 15, 2013

The Misinterpretation of Tara Jupp by Eva Rice

Eva Rice is the author of the best-seller The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets. This her second novel has similar touches; the 'Mitford-esque' characters and feelings of Stella Gibbon's Cold Comfort Farm. 

The book opens in the 1950s and the Jupp family live 'sans Maman' after her early death in the depths of Cornwall in ignorant poverty. Father is a vicar and his presence is signified by his no-nonsense approach and booming voice. Nearby is the run-down big house that is Trellanack. When Tara's 'secret' borrowing of Lady WD's grazing horses is discovered, the continued access is agreed on the provision that Tara's older sister Lucy befriends Lady WD's awkward daughter Matilda. This sets the scene for the local vicar's daughters to come in contact with people who will reappear later in their lives after Tara's voice is discovered when she sings at the wedding of Matilda, who has since gone on to become a much photographed model.

So begins a voyage of discovery, not only for Tara, who is taken to London to cut a record, but also for her sister Lucy who has a love of and "photographic memory" for old houses. While Tara is brought into the emerging pop scene of London in the early 60s, so Lucy is brought in to catalogue a Victorian house due for demolition to make way for road widening.

Eva Rice has written a very readable and likeable story. It has some great lines, such as when Clover who is minding Tara in London comments on Inigo, the record impresario called 'Father Hit-mas' in New York; "...I was rather obsessed by him for a while...As it turned out, I had confused love with deep admiration for the way he styled his hair. It just took me a couple of weeks to realize it." There are also several Wilde-esque observational asides, such as again when Clover states that "The very good-looking never need to bother with much at all. They can afford not to. the rest of us have to work hard at being liked".

The characters are fun but maybe fall a little into stereotypes. The first few chapters are a little stilted and almost a parody of the local vicar versus the 'Big House' with its doddery staff and dogs hair everywhere but the book soon gets into its swing and then romps along as we follow Tara's rise under her stage name 'Cherry Merrywell' and her sister's tribulations as she tries to come to terms with a life she left behind in Cornwall  and the life she lives with Tara in London. But Tara is a credible character throughout, and a strong voiced one. The 'misinterpretation' refers to the reinvention that went on with pop stars in the 1960s and as still goes on today. How Tara deals with that reinterpretation is tantamount to her character's development and one that holds the story together. It is rather long at nearly 600 pages but readers who get behind Tara on her voyage of discovery will enjoy going on it with her.

The Misinterpretation of Tara Jupp is published by Heron Books, an imprint of Quercus.

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