Wednesday, May 7, 2008
Big Fat Books!
by Anna Campbell
Recently my critique partner the fabulously talented Annie West lent me a book she'd enjoyed called RIDERS by Jilly Cooper. It's about 900 pages long, it's got a cast of thousands and reams of sex and conflict and intrigue. And I devoured every steamy word of it! Especially the bits about the sex-god antihero and all-round cad Rupert Campbell-Black. What a fun character! These big juicy books have a larger than life quality that I still respond to.
My reading over recent years, especially with romance, has concentrated on books that focus on a principal couple and the ins and outs of their relationship (as the actress said to the bishop!). You get that intense read and a big emotional experience in return for the narrow range the book covers.
But when I read RIDERS, I had a flashback to a much younger me who used to devour these thousand-page sagas like they were going out of style (which sadly they were by the time I'd finished!).
My mother was a big reader. She loved Mills and Boons and she loved long, long stories about intrepid heroines facing all kinds of catastrophes and emerging triumphant. Catherine Cookson, Josephine Cox, Danielle Steel. Rarely was she not in the middle of some poor woman's struggles against a hostile world!
I must say my taste in sagas was slightly different. I loved the glam ones like the Judith Krantzes. The sex and shopping books of the '80s? Gimme, gimme, gimme! I remember just adoring PRINCESS DAISY and SCRUPLES. Lots and lots of passion and intrigue and generally at least two really great love stories (with copious nooky) to keep me amused for hours. RIDERS was kinda sex and saddles rather than sex and shopping but it definitely falls into the category I'm talking about.
Almost inevitably these books were made into miniseries which was part of the fun too. I can remember the first time I saw Rupert Everett, he was Daisy's evil and oversexed half-brother in the TV adaptation of PRINCESS DAISY. Appropriately he was called Ram (snork!).
One of my favorites, both as book and miniseries, was Barbara Taylor Bradford's A WOMAN OF SUBSTANCE. It was the ideal combination of what Mum liked - plucky lower-class girl beats the rich at their own game and ends up queen of all she surveys - and what I liked - lots and lots of glamour and drama and sex and shopping.
I certainly don't think I'm going back to a solid diet of these books. But it was so interesting to read a story that encompassed a whole world, that was long enough to span years of action and character development (or not as the case may be!). There was a sweep and a broad canvas to the story that I don't get with the more intense stories.
Which reminds me of my favorite saga! Definitely a sweeping tale and a better read than you might imagine, especially the bits about Natasha and Prince Andrei who is a wonderful hero!
So over to you! Did you ever read these books? Do you miss them? Or do you still seek them out? Most of these writers are still publishing. Do you prefer the broad sweep of a saga or the concentrated experience of a book just about one couple? Do you have a favorite big fat book? Did you watch the miniseries of these books? Did you have a favorite TV version? One lucky commenter wins a $15 Amazon voucher - perhaps so you can go and buy some big fat books to augment your collection!