The Pequod Review:
Jilly Cooper’s Class is a satirical send-up of the English class structure, full of wicked humor and sly observations. Cooper doesn’t quite sustain her brilliance over the course of the entire book, but she has a number of sharp insights into this most timeless of subjects:
The upper middle classes are the most intelligent and highly educated of all the classes, and therefore the silliest and the most receptive to every new trend: radical chic, health foods, ethnic clothes, bra-lessness, gifted children, cuisine minceur. Gideon Upward gave his mother-in-law a garlic crusher for Christmas. The upper-middles tend to read The Guardian and are proud of their liberal and enlightened attitudes. They are also the most role-reversed of the classes: Gideon does a great deal of cooking and housework; Samantha longs to be a good mother and have an “int’risting job” at the same time. To save petrol she rides round on a sit-up-and-beg bicycle, with wholemeal bread in the front basket and a bawling child in the back. Sometimes her long dirndl skirt catches in the pedals. She has a second in history and a fourth in life.
Gideon and Samantha both went to “good” schools, Gideon probably to Winchester or to Sherborne. He might be an architect or work in the City. He wears a signet ring with a crest on the little finger of his left hand, in an attempt to proclaim near aristocratic status, just as the middle-middles wear an old school tie to show they’ve been to boarding school, the lower-middles give their house a name instead of a number to prove it isn’t council and the working classes bring back plastic bulls from Majorca to show they’ve travelled…
As they can’t be the most upper class in the land, Samantha is determined that they shall be the most “cultured.” She and Gideon go to the theatre, the ballet and the movies, as they rather self-consciously call the cinema, and try and read at least two books a week.
In the last fifteen years, the upper-middles have aimed at a standard of living they can’t afford, taking on many of the pastimes of the upper classes. Gideon goes shooting quite often; they have two cars, which are falling to pieces, and for which they have to pay a fortune every time they take their M.O.T.; they used to have a country cottage, holidays abroad, and a boat. Now they have two children at boarding school.
Recommended for fans of Paul Fussell’s or Nancy Mitford’s similar work.