Publishing year: 2010
The narrator of this novel is Tara Jupp just like the title shows.
Tara tells us the story of her family from the moment her mother and father met. Her mother wanted to be an actress but then Tara’s father almost made her fall when he was riding a bicycle. That was the start of their story together. We learn that Tara’s father has two passions: tennis and God. He was ordained, and when he married, the newlyweds moved to a village in Cornwall. Then he resolved to have a big family, thinking that he could produce a tennis star, something he had failed to do. So their first son, Jack, nicknamed E.J (Errant Jack) was born in 1938. We know that Jack has a tendency to wander. The second George, who inherited his father’s love for God. Lucy, the first girl, is the sister that Tara keeps mentioning more, and I think she has a special relationship with. Tara says that Lucy is the one who has inherited their mother’s beauty and is always surrounded by boys, and she keeps getting into trouble with her father as she keeps sneaking out to meet those boys. Then Florence and Imogen came, and since they were born just eight months apart, they are called twins. Then Tara was born, and finally Roy and Luke.
Luke’s birth was very difficult, and the children’s mother was bedridden for days with terrible fevers, and then she died. This upset the whole family, and we get to learn how all the siblings felt their mother’s loss deeply. Tara started to sneak out of the house and ride the ponies from the big house where Lady Wells Devoran and her daughter Matilda lived. Tara felt free as she rode the horses, and doing something naughty like this made her feel she was rebelling against her mother’s death.
That summer their father discovered that Lucy had been sneaking out of the house to meet a boyfriend. So she sent her with her great-aunt Mary, who worked as a housekeeper/cook for a rich family, the Wallace’s. Their father decided that Tara and George should go with Lucy. I think that Aunt Mary is a great character, and I love how she talks and behaves not only with her great-nieces and nephews, but also with the family she worked for. Tara didn’t think much of her time with her great-aunt. Then something happened. Tara was asked to help Aunt Mary in the kitchen one day, and that was a turning point that summer. When she was sent to pick up some vegetables in the garden, she got distracted by the horses she could see, and as she wondered, she got lost. Feeling lonely and lost, she started to cry, and then she saw a couple of girls, who came to comfort her. One of the girls was Miss Penelope Wallace, the family’s daughter, and the other Charlotte, a friend. Tara feels extremely pleased when the girls accompany her to the house, talking to her as if they had known her all their lives. Tara explains that this was little compared to what happened next, as she met the boy who she first fell in love with. It was the eldest son, Inigo Wallace, who Tara thinks is the most handsome boy she has ever met. At the time Inigo is fifteen and Tara just ten. Inigo starts to talk to her, and when he remembers that Tara is the sister who sings, he asks her to sing for him while he plays the guitar, and Tara does so.
Tara is to leave for home soon, and then she does something she will regret later. We get to know that Tara tends to take something from the places she visits as a souvenir, especially as her sister Lucy encourages to do so. As she is about to leave the following day, she sees a little elephant in the Wallaces’ living room and decides that this is something that the family won’t miss. However, her aunt Mary discovers the theft, and she makes Tara return the object and apologise. To her relief and chagrin, it is not Mrs Wallace who is waiting for her, but Inigo. He disregards the incident, but tells her that the elephant is very special for him and his family since it was something that his father brought him from India when he was alive. Tara feels mortified and swears she will never do it again.
The three siblings return home, and shortly afterwards Aunt Mary is left jobless when her employer Mrs Wallace gets together with an American rock start, and the whole family moves to America. Tara is unhappy as this will mean that she won’t see Inigo again. Her aunt Mary starts working for different families, and when Lucy gets into trouble with her father, she still goes with their aunt, but this time Lucy doesn’t get to go with her or her other siblings. It is as Lucy keeps visiting their aunt Mary in the different houses that the teenage girl starts cultivating a taste for the houses and the architecture of them, even getting obsessed. Yet, Aunt Mary passes away after she has a bad fall, so Lucy can’t continue those houses she loves so much, and Tara selfishly thinks that without her aunt Mary she won’t be able to get news from Inigo.
Tara continues riding the shetland ponies on Lady WD’s property on the sly, and then one day the woman catches her. Tara realises that the woman already knew about her escapades, and unlike the telling-off or punishment she expects, the woman invites her to tea and makes a proposition. Lady WD wants to replace her groom, who has left to get married, and that way she can still ride the horses, and for the work done Lady WD will let her have proper riding classes. Lady WD has a favour to ask. She has a daughter, Matilda, who doesn’t have any friends, so she thinks that Lucy will be good company for Matilda. The two girls are similar age, as Matilda is seventeen and Lucy fifteen. So the next thing Tara has to do is to convince her sister to meet Matilda for tea, but she thinks it won’t be difficult as Lucy has wanted to see inside the manor for a long time but hasn’t found the excuse to do so. I have the feeling that Lady WD doesn’t know what Lucy is like, and I’m afraid that Lucy won’t be the best influence for Matilda.
That is what I’ve read so far. I have to say that I didn’t know what to expect from the book, but I’m already enjoying the story of Tara and her family. I love the fine humour the chapters contain, and Tara is a fresh, wonderful narrator.