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Can your favourite authors lose their allure?

  • 24 June 2024
  Every reader has favourite authors. We look forward to their new books (surely, I cannot be the only reader who at the start of the year goes through a publishing app to work out when my favourites’ new books will be available) or just keep the old ones to read and read again.

It doesn’t matter that the stories are often variations on a theme. There’s something about settling down in a patch of sunshine, tea and biscuits at hand, and knowing that by page 400 the violent and perplexing crime has been solved and justice served (sometimes roughly) or the two romantic leads have weathered their differences, sorted out the misunderstandings and are now ready to embark on a life of sunshine and roses.

But I’m not sure if it’s age, personal experience or the way the world has changed but some favourites no longer have the same attraction. 

In the mid-1980s Dame Jilly Cooper burst into international consciousness with Riders, the first volume of the Rutshire Chronicles. (There’s a clue in the fictional county’s name.) It was a sprawling novel of rich people behaving badly. Indeed, the first three – Riders (1985), Rivals (1988) and Polo (1991) gave glimpses into the world of jetsetting, racing, polo, money and sex. They were fun and a bit shocking – it truly was a different world. Over the years Dame Jilly has revisited Rutshire, with books about the same people or tangentially related and I’ve read most of them with decreasing levels of enjoyment. Earlier this year I picked up Tackle (2023) and we are back with Rupert Campbell-Black the ex-world showjumping champion from Riders. He’s a successful racehorse owner, trainer and breeder, and a former Conservative minister for sport. In Tackle he becomes owner of a football club and again we’re in a world of competition – personal and professional – power and sex and it’s all a little . . . staid. Gone is the frisson of reading about the lives of people one is not likely to come across at the local supermarket. And I wonder, is it because these lives are not so alien now. Has the ‘Real Housewives of [insert city here]’, the Kardashians or the cosmetic surgery shows mean we know more than we need to about rich people behaving badly?

I read a romance where, in a side story, the female lead was a bully at school to her half-sister. While the sisters reconnect and sort out their problems and the romance progresses