Jilly Cooper OBE (born 21 February 1937) is an English author. She started her career as a journalist and wrote numerous works of non-fiction before writing several romance novels, the first of which appeared in 1975. She is most famous for writing the Rutshire Chronicles.
Jilly Sallitt was born in Hornchurch, Essex, England, to Mary Elaine (née Whincup) and Brigadier W. B. Sallitt, OBE. She grew up in Ilkley and Surrey, and was educated at the Moorfield School in Ilkley and the Godolphin School in Salisbury.
Journalism and non-fiction
After unsuccessfully trying to start a career in the British national press, Cooper became a junior reporter for The Middlesex Independent, based in Brentford. She worked for the paper from 1957 to 1959. Subsequently, she worked as an account executive, copywriter, publisher's reader and even a receptionist.
Her break came with a chance meeting at a dinner party. The editor of The Sunday Times Magazine asked her to write a feature about her experiences. This led to a column in which Cooper wrote about marriage, sex and housework. That column ran from 1969 to 1982, when she moved to The Mail on Sunday, where she worked for another five years.
Cooper’s first column led to the publication of her first book, How to Stay Married in 1969, and which was quickly followed by a guide to working life, How to Survive from Nine to Five in 1970. Some of her journalism was collected into a single volume, Jolly Super, in 1971. Several similar volumes were issued.
The theme of class dominates much of her writing and her non-fiction is written from a distinct upper middle-class British perspective, focusing on the relationships between men and women, and matters of social class in contemporary Britain.
In 1975, Cooper published her first work of romantic fiction, Emily. It was based on a short story she wrote for a teenage magazine, as were the subsequent romances (all titled with female names). She also wrote a series of children’s books featuring the heroine Little Mabel.
However, Cooper's best-known works are her extremely long novels. The first of these was Riders (1985), an international bestseller, and the first volume of Rutshire Chronicles. The first version of Riders was written by 1970, but shortly after Cooper had finished it, she took it with her into the West End of London and left the manuscript on a bus. The London Evening Standard put out an appeal, but it was never found. She was, she says, "devastated", and it took her more than a decade to start it again.
Riders and the following books are characterised by intricate plots, featuring multiple story lines and a large number of characters. (To help the reader keep track, each book begins with a list and brief description of the characters) Although the books do not always follow each other sequentially - Rivals and Polo chronologically overlap, for example - they are linked by recurring characters (chiefly Rupert Campbell-Black, Roberto Rannaldini, and their families) and later books make reference to events of previous books.[
The stories heavily feature adultery, (sexual) infidelity and general betrayal, melodramatic misunderstandings and emotions, money worries and domestic upheavals.
Each book of the Rutshire Chronicles is set in a milieu that can be considered glamorous and wealthy, such as show jumping or classical music. These aspects are contrasted with details of the characters' domestic lives, which are often far from glamorous.
Her novel Pandora is not one of the Rutshire Chronicles, but does feature a few characters from the series, and is very similar in style and content. Wicked! follows the same approach, including characters from previous novels and introducing new characters who are relatives, friends or rivals of existing characters. It is set in the fictional county of Larkshire, which borders her other fictional county, Rutshire.
Her most recent[novel is Jump! which features characters from Rutshire Chronicles in the world of jump racing.
As with her non-fiction works, Cooper draws heavily on her own point of view and experiences. For example, her own house is the model for Rupert Campbell-Black's: both are very old (although his is larger); her house overlooks a valley called the Toadsmore, and his overlooks a valley called the Frogsmore. She also draws on her love of animals – dogs and horses feature heavily in her books – and the British countryside.
In 1961, Jilly married Leo Cooper, a publisher of military history books. The couple have known each other since 1945 (when Jilly was about eight), although they did not marry until she was 24 and he was 27. Leo Cooper was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease in 2002.[ In October 2010 Jilly suffered a minor stroke. The couple were unable to have children naturally. They adopted two children, Emily and Felix, now adults. They also have four grandchildren, Jago, Lysander, Acer and Scarlett, as well as a rescued cat, Feral, and a rescued greyhound, Feather. They live in an old house in the Cotswolds which they moved to in 1982.
Cooper was involved in the Ladbroke Grove rail crash. She was a passenger in one of the derailed carriages and had to crawl through a window to escape. She later spoke of feeling that her "number was up" and of being absurdly concerned, due to shock, about a manuscript she had been carrying.
Cooper lives in Bisley, near Stroud in Gloucestershire.
Cooper is a very strong supporter of the British Conservative Party.
Awards and honours
Cooper was awarded an OBE for services to literature in the Queen's Birthday Honours list in 2004.
On 13 November 2009 she was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Letters by the University of Gloucestershire at a ceremony in Gloucester Cathedral.
List of works
How to Stay Married (1969)
How to Survive from Nine to Five (1970)
Jolly Super (1971)
Men and Super Men (1972)
Jolly Super Too (1973)
Women and Super Women (1974)
Jolly Superlative (1975)
Supermen and Superwomen (1976)
Work and Wedlock (1977)
The British in Love (1979)
A View from Middle England (1979)
Violets and Vinegar
An Anthology of Women's Wrirings and Sayings (1980)
Intelligent and Loyal (1981)
Jolly Marsupial (1982)
Animals in War (1983)
The Common Years (1984)
On Rugby (1984; with Leo Cooper)
On Cricket (1985; with Leo Cooper)
Hotfoot to Zabriskie Point (1985)
Horse Mania! (1986)
How to Survive Christmas (1986)
Turn Right at the Spotted Dog (1987)
Angels Rush In (1990)
Lisa and Co. (1981; also known as Love and Other Heartaches)
'Little Mabel' series:
Little Mabel (1980)
Little Mabel's Great Escape (1981)
Little Mabel Wins (1982)
Little Mabel Saves the Day (1985)
The Rutshire Chronicles:
Rivals (1988; also known as Players)
The Man Who Made Husbands Jealous (1993)
 Film, TV, or theatrical adaptations
In 1971, Cooper created the comedy series It's Awfully Bad For Your Eyes, Darling, which featured Joanna Lumley, and ran for one series.
Television adaptations of Cooper's romance novels are currently in development with ITV. Octavia, had its first UK screening in 2009, with actress Tamsin Egerton, taking the title role.
Previous productions include the TV mini-series The Man Who Made Husbands Jealous, starring Hugh Bonneville, produced by Sarah Lawson.
In popular culture
Cooper was a regular panellist on Through the Keyhole.
TV show Little Britain has a recurring joke featuring the fictional character Bubbles DeVere, who in an attempt to appear important, pretends to receive a call from Jilly Cooper.
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