Jilly Cooper’s Octavia

‘Hush, said Gareth softly, ‘you’ll wake Octavia.’ Jeremy lowered his voice, ‘God she looks fantastic.’

‘Like a Ming vase,’ said Gareth. ‘Beautiful, but empty. Why don’t you write one of your famous poems about her? “Oh lovely Octavia, How I’d like to make a slave of ya.”‘

‘Oh, put a sock in it,’ said Jeremy angrily.

Have you got a copy of Shakespeare on board? asked Gareth.

‘Somewhere in the bookcase in the saloon. What do you want to look up?

‘The Taming of the Shrew,’ said Gareth, ‘I thought I might pick up a few tips on how to handle Octavia.’

jc 03You know you’re onto a promising scenario in a novel when you read a passage like this from Jilly Cooper’s Octavia. Written in the late seventies, it follows the fortunes of a glamorous rich bitch, who sets out to pinch her friend’s boyfriend

But she runs up against Gareth a macho Welsh tycoon who, as you can tell from the above extract, is determined to tame her wilful ways.

According to the author’s website, the book was actually subtitled The Taming of the Shrew although my Corgi paperback edition makes no reference to this.

So you’ll no doubt be wondering by now: ‘Does Gareth get to spank Octavia?’

You bet he does. Here’s the scene:

Upstairs in the bathroom, I hardly recognised myself. I looked like some Maenad, my hair tousled, my eyes glittering, my cheeks flushed. God the dress was so beautiful.

‘And you’re beautiful too,’ I added and, leaning forward, lightly kissed my reflection in the mirror.

Even in my alcoholic state, I was slightly abashed when I turned round and saw Gareth standing watching me from the doorway.

‘Don’t you know it’s rude to stare?’ I said.

He didn’t move.

‘I’d like to come past – if you don’t mind,’ I went on.

‘Oh no you don’t, he said, grabbing my wrist.

‘Oh yes I do,’ I screamed, trying to tug myself away.

‘Will you stop behaving like a whore! he swore at me and, pulling me into the nearest bedroom, threw me on the bed and locked the door.

‘Now I suppose you’re going to treat me like a whore,’ I spat at him. ‘What will your precious Lorna say if she catches us here together?’

Suddenly I was frightened. There was murder in his eyes.

‘It’s about time someone taught you a lesson,’ he said, coming towards me. ‘And I’m afraid it’s going to be me.’

Before I realised it, Gareth had me across his knee. I’ve never known what living daylights were before, but he was certainly beating them out of me now. I started to scream and kick.

‘Shut up,’ he said viciously. ‘No one can hear you’ The record player was still booming downstairs. I struggled and tried to bite him but he was far too strong for me. It was not the pain so much as the ghastly indignity. It seemed to go on for ever and ever, Finally he tipped me on the floor, I lay there trembling with fear.

‘Get up,’ he said brusquely, ‘and get your things together. I’m taking you back to the boat.’

What did you think? The actual spanking is not described in much detail. That ‘living daylights’ line is a bit weak and corny even by Jilly Cooper’s standards, but I think the set-up and characters are pretty classic. And we get to know about the feelings of the spankee – ‘the ghastly indignity’ in this case.

But the most notable thing about this spanking description is the fact that it is written in the first-person by a woman.

jc 01I’ve not researched this, but I’d like to bet there are very few spanking scenes in mainstream novels written by women in the first person. It is interesting to note that the first edition of the book had this cover (left).

The model is Jilly Cooper and there is little doubt that she based the character of Octavia on herself. Or at least a fantasy version of herself. In other words, when she wrote this scene she was imagining being spanked by a domineering man.

Octavia doesn’t seem to be on any internet ‘spanking in novels’ list, but here’s the really interesting bit: ITV are making a drama based on the book to be shown in 2008!

Yeah, but they’re sure to omit the spanking scene aren’t they? Well that’s what I thought at first, but then I looked into it a bit further on media website The British Sitcom Guide:

ITV has commissioned four comedy dramas based on Jilly Cooper’s romantic fiction novels. The popular, but often laughed at, author’s books are being adapted by Touchpaper Television for broadcast on ITV1. The novel is being adapted by Gimme, Gimme, Gimme writer Jonathan Harvey.

Love that expression ‘popular but often laughed at’.

Further evidence of what the programme will be like is provided by the writer – Jonathan Harvey. Gimme, Gimme, Gimme was an alternative comedy on BBC2, with a fairly outrageous line in humour.

According to The British Sitcom Guide executive producer Rob Pursey said: “From the first time we met with Jilly Cooper, it was clear that this project would be a huge amount of fun. With Jonathan Harvey adapting the novel it will celebrate the mischief, comedy and romance of the original story.”

Reading between the lines, I’d say that Jonathan Harvey might just be the type of writer who would leap at the chance to include a spanking scene!

With that in mind, this quote from ITV director Paul Jackson is quite enticing:

This iconic series of Jilly Cooper books wonderfully reflects the 70s era. Octavia and future adaptations will provide fabulous, fun roles for some of the most exciting, fresh young actresses in the UK.

So they’re currently on the look out for ‘an exciting and fresh young actress’ to play Octavia.

Hmmm…I’ll keep you posted on who they come up with.

6 thoughts on “Jilly Cooper’s Octavia”

  1. Not commented before, but I had to when I read this. It was one of those books that always opened at a certain page when I was a kid…and if you read the ending it has a great bit where he explains who’s going to wear the trousers in their marriage.
    BTW, according to teletext it is 20 years today since they banned the cane in state schools. Just thought I’d mention it 🙂

  2. Thanks Sally,
    I’m glad this post ‘connected’ with you, and it’s especially nice to hear from a regular reader who hasn’t commented before. Now I know I’m not the only Jilly Cooper reading spanko out there 🙂
    You correctly guessed however, that I’ve only read as far as page 103!

  3. I’ve now read the passage at the end of the book. It is indeed excellent, so I thought I might as well add it on here. Thanks again to Sally for the tip:

    These are the last lines of the book:

    ‘I’m going to put my mark on you, so no one else can get near you,’ he went on, his eyes suddenly serious. ‘But I warn you, baby, even if we have to fight like cats, I’m going to wear the trousers. You’re going to do what I tell you, and if you start upstaging me, I’ll put you down. The boys in the Valley are like that. We keep our women in the background and we beat them if they give us trouble, but we know how to love them.’

    Suddenly I felt my knees giving way to lust.

    ‘Could we possibly do it again just very quickly before breakfast?’ I asked.

    We never made it to the bedroom, but the kitchen floor proved perfectly satisfactory.

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