Octavia Sheepshanks: Week 7

In her seventh column, OCTAVIA expounds the virtues of her favourite novel. And James Blake.

column columnist gareth llewellyn jilly Octavia Sheepshanks rupert campbell-black

As soon as Octavia caught a glimpse of Jeremy in the nightclub, she knew she just had to have him. It didn’t matter that he’d just got engaged to an old school friend of hers, plump, good natured Gussie; he was looking at Octavia in a way that suggested bed rather than breakfast, and she was weak at the knees… But Octavia was used to men falling in love with her at a moment’s notice – it happened all the time if you were as rich and as stunning as she was.

Another week, another man, another column about me and how stressful it is being just so attractive. Ha, jokes, no, it turns out that Scott Pilgrim actually fell for the calculated manifesto for lurve that was last week’s effort, and has somehow gained the job title of ‘boyfriend’. Apart from some minor problems (me accidentally kneeing him ‘where it hurts’ so hard he couldn’t cycle home and had to get a taxi…me locking us out of my room in towels, leading to a revealing visit to the plodge at 3am…and worst of all, me changing my Facebook relationship status at an off-peak time so the only ‘like’ it received was mine…), it’s been plain sailing so far.

“But who is the Octavia in paragraph number one?” you exclaim, writhing in pain at your lack of knowledge. If you don’t know, you’re in for a treat. When I was just thirteen, my mother decided that the time had come to introduce me to the wonderful world of Jilly Cooper. Feminism? Pah! It’s the late Seventies, the men all have high-powered jobs and earn masses of money, and the women are secretaries who spend their lunch hour sunbathing topless in the hope that this will somehow find them a husband. It usually does, as well.

Octavia is one of six of Jilly’s novellas, each of which tell the story of a different girl and her quest for love. Octavia, a hugely self-centred and utterly gorgeous bitch, is naturally my favourite heroine. Never one to produce an under-researched or facetious column, I visited Jilly’s website. On the Octavia page, I thought I would check that others feel the same joy I do about the story, so I clicked on ‘Fan Feedback’.

“As she shares my name I was immediately drawn to the eponymous heroine of your novella Octavia, and although I hope I am quite different to her I thought I would email you to say how much I love the book. My mother gave it to me a few years ago (I’m 17 now) and I have since read it hundreds of times. I never tire of imagining her trying to ‘ensnare’ Jeremy etc.”

How very informative, I thought. I was not alone! I rejoiced! Then I saw that I’d written it myself, two years ago. Oops.

Anyway, the point is, JC is invincible. Christian Grey? Pah. Try Gareth Llewellyn out for size (heh).

But even Gareth pales in comparison to that ‘promiscuous upper-class cad’ and resident sex god, Rupert Campbell-Black. Star of Jilly’s masterpiece (and my favourite book of all time), Riders, Rupert says everything ‘through gritted teeth’ and even induces Hilary, stereotypical unshaven feminist, to shave her underarms for him.

I thought I would be able to articulate many more reasons why this truly is the best book in the world, but as just demonstrated, they sound a bit sarky. So I will just say two things: First, the photo on the front of the book (and the spine actually, it fits there because the book is OVER 900 WORDS LONG! AMAZING!) is a woman’s bottom in some tight white riding trousers, with a quite old looking man’s hand on it. Enticing or what? Secondly, to quote The Sunday Telegraph: “Sex and horses: who could ask for more?”

You probably could ask for more, and quite reasonably. But don’t – just read it. It’s fabulous.

On another note, apparently you actually click on the hyperlinks I keep putting in! My couple friends’ “weird but hilarious blog” got 300+ hits from you lot last week, or so they tell me. This week, Maggie writes to Denis about Alexander Haig’s chip game. CLICK ME.

Finally, because this is my seventh column and they can hardly fire me now, here’s a lovely song that has absolutely no relevance to anything said above.