CLASS by Jilly Cooper

CLASS

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KIRKUS REVIEW

I can assure you that the class system is alive and well and living in people's minds in England."" So reports Yorkshire-bred columnist Cooper (herself ""ashamedly middle-class"")--and she goes on to document this hardly surprising announcement with moderately amusing anecdotes, bits of borrowed research, and half-serious generalizations. A grand romp? Well, more like an overlong hop-skip-and-stumble. The book's organization is ploddingly subject-by-subject--from ""children"" to ""education"" to ""occupations"" to ""sex and marriage"" to ""religion,"" etc. Cooper uses cutely named prototypes to represent the upper classes, upper-middles, middle-middles, lower-middles (""Mrs. Jen Teale""), the working classes. . . and Mr. and Mrs. Nouveau-Richards. Some of the humor depends on puns involving British brand names--though, considering the level of the decipherable puns (""Lucky the girl that lays the golden egghead""), perhaps one should be grateful for the untranslatable ones. Tastelessness occasionally intrudes. (On homosexuality in upper-class marriage: ""The sex side works, because the upper-class woman doesn't expect much, and the man just shuts his eyes and thinks of Benjamin Britten."") And the reliance on derisive stereotypes often becomes offensive--especially since there are sporadic pretensions to sociological significance. Still, Cooper is sometimes informative on recent trends: ""One of the great job phenomena of the seventies is the way the upper classes have taken up cooking for money."" Or: ""I recently met an extremely grand, much-divorced old woman wearing orange satin drainpipes and a white tee shirt with I AM A VIRGIN printed across the bust."" And the best moments come from such second-hand anecdotes as: ""When John Betjeman married an upper-class girl he drove his mother-in-law insane at the pre-wedding party by wearing a made-up bow tie on elastic and flicking it all the way through dinner."" Spottily engaging sneers and one-liners for browsing Anglophiles, then, but lower-middle-class as humor and no-class as sociology.

Pub Date: June 23rd, 1981
Publisher: Knopf