Review: The Misinterpretation of Tara Jupp

(Four stars)

THE PLOT: ‘The Misinterpretation of Tara Jupp’ by Eva Rice is historical fiction about a country girl who becomes a famous singer. Set in 1960’s Cornwall, Tara Jupp loves singing in the church choir, stealing horse rides and following her beautiful older sister, Lucy. When Tara and Lucy become friends with Matilda, it’s as if they’ve found another sibling. But there’s a big falling out and Matilda runs off to London where she becomes a famous model. After several years, the three girls are reunited and Matilda tries to make amends by arranging for Tara to be whisked off to fame and fortune. But as Tara’s turned into a popstar, she struggles to hold onto who she really is.

RATING: This coming-of-age story was exactly what I needed. A historical setting with a plot that’s all about sisterly bonds, female friendship and finding yourself – sign me up! Even though my plot summary might seem long, there’s so much more that happens in this book. There are eight siblings, love interests, stately homes, sexual awakening, and a peek at the glamourous London of the swinging sixties. At 579 pages, the book is a bit on the long side. However, I’m giving it four stars because I completely escaped into the setting and characters.

GOOD BITS: Tara Jupp is a fantastic protagonist because she’s a bit like every seventeen-year-old girl. She has awkward conversations, where she feels she’s not doing or saying or wearing the right things, and she yearns after a nebulous idea of love, which she doesn’t quite understand. It’s a little embarrassing but this was entirely relatable to me. I also loved Lucy and Matilda, and the dynamic between the three friends. Finally, I felt the book’s resolution was intelligent. There was a full circle moment where everything made sense and it gave me that warm feeling of satisfaction.

NOT SO GOOD BITS: Let’s be honest, this book is longer than it needs to be. As indicated by my plot summary, the set-up meanders for several hundred pages and it take a while for Tara to become a singer. I mean, I enjoyed the hazy days in the Cornish countryside as the friendship is established, and I loved seeing Tara and Lucy’s family (their father is comic triumph), but it wasn’t strictly necessary. A lot happens after Tara starts to become a famous singer so I think that if this book was a debut, an editor and agent would have mercilessly stripped the story back.

OVERALL: This book has the vibe of ‘Cider with Rosie’ by Laurie Lee and the plot of ‘The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo’ by Taylor Jenkins Reid. I haven’t read ‘City of Girls’ by Elizabeth Gilbert, but I imagine it would also be a good comparison. I’d highly recommend it to people who love both women’s fiction and historical fiction. As it’s mostly set in the summer, I’d urge you to find a park or field on a sunny day and lay back on a picnic blanket with this novel.

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