Vulpes Libris

A collective of bibliophiles talking about books. Book Fox (vulpes libris): small bibliovorous mammal of overactive imagination and uncommonly large bookshop expenses. Habitat: anywhere the rustle of pages can be heard.

The Misinterpretation of Tara Jupp by Eva Rice

45876_MisinterpretationOfTaraJupp_JKT.inddOh, I loved this book.

Even though I usually can’t stand a chunkster, and this book weighs in at 579 pages, I loved every moment wallowing in Eva Rice’s The Misinterpretation of Tara Jupp (2013).  And those moments were spread out over the course of six months or so, because it was my guilty pleasure read during the final stages of my DPhil.  And, in case I forgot to mention, it’s 579 pages long.

This isn’t actually Rice’s second novel, but you might be forgiven for thinking so, because she first became well known for her wonderful 2005 novel The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets, which borrowed the loveliest elements of Nancy Mitford and Stella Gibbons along with Rice’s own trademark charm, warmth, and wit to create a joyous ride through early twentieth-century upper-middle-class life.

The Misinterpretation of Tara Jupp (great title) moves things on a bit – but only a bit, as we’re in the 1960s.  Tara Jupp, a seventeen year old vicar’s daughter, has a large number of siblings and enjoys her upbringing in the West Country, sneaking rides of local horses, admiring the beautiful stately home nearby, and always thinking of the time she sang to mysterious Inigo in the kitchen where her aunt worked… Eventually, she is thrown into the swinging world of the 1960s London music scene, recording a successful song under the pseudonym Cherry Merrywell, and meeting dizzyingly bohemian people at every corner.

It’s impossible to give a summary of the plot without it sounding like the worst kind of popstar-makes-a-movie fodder.  You know the ones – where Britney Spears et al decide to turn their hand to the silver screen in as thinly-veiled a portrait of themselves as possible.  Which makes it all the more impressive (and brave, on Rice’s part) that The Interpretation of Tara Jupp is fresh and lively and vigorously enjoyable.  It’s not all froth and bubbles – there are plenty of tragedies and misunderstandings along the way, but somehow these add to the cosiness of the novel, rather than the reverse.  As the title suggests, there is a bit of misinterpretation, often by Tara herself, of herself, but it’s the variety of emotional tussle that stays firmly on the page.

Rice’s writing is the sort that has qualities which are impossible to convey.  She is not a fine stylist – I don’t think she is trying to be – and so quoting any single passage is rather pointless.  Rather, there is a cumulative brilliance to her novel.  Scene after scene, emotion after emotion, are built up so that we have a composite picture of beautiful houses, witty conversationalists, nerves, sass, and nostalgia.  It’s heady, but it works.  I read somewhere that her books are like soaking in a warm bath.  Well, I hate baths, but I can see what they mean – Rice follows in the line of great warm-bath authors like Mitford, Gibbons, and others who can present unlikely happenings with plausible, self-aware heroines.  It’s delicious.

Oh, and for fans of The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets – a few of your favourite characters make an appearance in The Misinterpretation of Tara Jupp

The Misinterpretation of Tara Jupp by Eva Rice. (London, Heron Books, 2013). ISBN 9781780878546 (trade paperback) 579pp.

Simon Thomas blogs at Stuck-in-a-Book and invites you to be jolly nice in the comments and recommend books along a similar line.

11 comments on “The Misinterpretation of Tara Jupp by Eva Rice

  1. CFisher
    January 28, 2014

    This is my kind of review: chatty, direct and free of stuffiness! The book sounds excellent too. I can think of the person to give it as a person. Thank you!

  2. Kate
    January 28, 2014

    Sounds very like The Vacillations of Poppy Carew, or similar. I loved her books, so perhaps i should try Eva Rice.

  3. victoriacorby
    January 28, 2014

    Eva Rice is nothing like Mary Wesley, honestly. Personally I don’t think Eva Rice can bear comparison to Mitford, Gibbons et all for the simple reason that Rice is writing about a period as history, whereas Mitford, Wesley etc actually lived through it and were often using incidents from their own lives in their books. it makes the tone completely different.
    This was an enjoyable book but one of the reasons it’s such a chunkster is that there really is far too much detail, it would have been far better had there been some stern cutting.

  4. heavenali
    January 28, 2014

    This sounds really rather glorious,as a vicar’s daughter myself it certainly has some appeal. Thank you for telling us about it.

  5. sshaver
    January 28, 2014

    Just writing to suggest a post. I’m in the middle of Glyn Maxwell’s On Poetry, and it’s the first book I’ve read in decades that is actually saying something new. I’d enjoy seeing an essay on it here. Just a thought. Got to return to reading it….

  6. Jackie
    January 28, 2014

    *Making a note to look for On Poetry*
    This sounds like an enjoyable book, especially since I like the 1960’s.Wit and sass are also a draw, so I’ll definitely be looking for this book. Though maybe in ebook format to make things lighter?

  7. Anne Peoples
    January 29, 2014

    I’m with Victoria on this. Mills and Boon made their writers stick to 192 pages (to do with managing the paper and printing costs I believe) and it has often occurred to me that many writers would benefit from such an apprenticeship. I definitely thought this novel was staggering under its own weight. I did enjoy it, it whiled away last weekend quite nicely (even if I was skimming it rather than reading it) but I’m not as taken with it as I was with “The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets”.

  8. Peggy
    January 29, 2014

    I love Gibbons and Mitford and long books, but I’m going to pass on this one. I read The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets and found it irritating, in particular some anachronisms and careless editing. As I recall there is one scene in which a character departs and other characters continue having a conversation only to have the absent character suddenly pop up and join in the conversation as if he’d never left.

  9. Leena
    January 30, 2014

    Thank you for this lovely review, Simon! I loved The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets, almost without meaning to – I could see the anachronisms and I thought the ending was a bit weak, but all the same I was swept off my feet by its charm and nostalgia. I bought The Misinterpretation of Tara Jupp as soon as it came out, but haven’t got round to reading it yet. Your review has made me want to pick it up asap!

    I think I’d compare Eva Rice to Dodie Smith rather than Mitford et al, but that might be just because of the many I Capture the Castle comparisons… if I remember correctly, ICTC may even have been mentioned on the cover blurb of my edition of The Lost Art!

    I do wish there were more writers of this ilk. I’m a sucker for nostalgia, but writers who wallow in nostalgia are often so very sentimental and sugary and lack what you so aptly call ‘sass’. The Lost Art was frothy and entertaining but never too sweet. It’s a tough balance to strike. I like nostalgia with some bite.

  10. Eva Rice
    February 26, 2014

    Thank you Simon… This has made my year. Mainly because it is a dream review- but a little bit because you are a bloke and men aren’t usually considered my market- ha ha. V happy you liked it. Working on next one. Hard work. Two punchy female narrators…

  11. Eva Rice
    February 26, 2014

    Oh, and yes, there is the odd careless edit in Lost Art. Kind of fun. We were too busy dancing to Johnnie Ray to notice.

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This entry was posted on January 28, 2014 by in Entries by Simon, Fiction: 21st Century and tagged .



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