Bridget Jones’s Diary

You completely forget the fact that when you were twenty-two and you didn’t have boyfriend or meet anyone you remotely fancied for twenty-three months you just thought it was a bit of a drag. The whole thing builds up out of all proportion, so finding a relationship seems a dazzling, almost insurmountable goal, and when you do start going out with someone it cannot possibly live up to expectations.

I saw the movie of Bridget Jones’s Diary a few years ago but had never read Helen Fielding’s original novel until now (I think; chick lit tends to blend together for me). I wish I had because I couldn’t read it without picturing Renee Zelwegger or Colin Firth, though the latter is not necessarily a bad thing.

Bridget Jones is a thirty-something Singleton whose New Year’s resolutions run the gamut from being more confident to falling out of love with her boss Daniel. And also not to be overwhelmed or pushed around by her mother, who has issues of her own. Through the course of the year Bridget must reevaluate her career goals, support her parents during a crisis, support her friends during crises, and be supported herself when her own love life becomes a crisis. Not to mention make a humorous daily analysis of the intake of calories, cigarettes, alcohol units, lottery tickets, and negative thoughts.

I have a love/hate relationship with first person perspective because it so often has the tendency to become whiny, but the diary format kind of makes that all right because everything is so concise that if Bridget complains it’s only for a couple sentences at a time. This brevity of form is where a lot of the humor comes in too because of how matter-of-fact things are.

Bridget is brutally honest in this diary, and I think part of her many flaws is that everyone can find something to identify with. For me, it’s the constant weight fluctuation of the same five stubborn pounds. She smokes, she drinks, she obsesses over boys (well, boy, really), she procrastinates, she fails in the kitchen, she doesn’t know how to stand up to her mother. Sometimes she seems superficial, but other days she reveals a depth like the quote at the top. Deep down she knows her weight doesn’t really matter, and that she has a healthy social life and shouldn’t let the Smug Marrieds badger her about finding a boyfriend. But she’s human, and societal pressures are no small thing.

Of course Bridget gets her man in the end, but what really struck me is that she doesn’t go through any huge changes through the course of the book. She still counts calories and feels cowed by her mother. But she’s still the same witty, caring, and vulnerable person she was all along, and I think that’s the real point Fielding might be trying to make. Despite all her feelings to the contrary Bridget doesn’t need to change to gain anyone’s approval. She just needs to be herself, warts and all, and wait for the right person to come along.

On another level Bridget Jones’s Diary is also a Pride and Prejudice homage, and in my opinion the best kind because it doesn’t try to retell the same story. Bridget is certainly not Lizzy, and not just because she has no sisters. She is a memorable character in her own right, and Fielding merely adapts some characters and and plot devices from Austen’s original to suit the narrative here.

I think one of the reasons I enjoyed this so much was the fact that it’s British. I always have fun looking at day-to-day life across the pond where people talk about things like cricket and Bank Holidays and 1471 calls. In many other ways Bridget Jones’s Diary is not that different from a lot of chick lit on the market today–but then I reminded myself that this was published way back in 1996 and was probably very original at the time.

I’ll most likely read the sequel at some point to see how the story continues, but that one won’t count for the Everything Austen Challenge like this does. Apparently this is also on the Guardian list. I guess as an exemplar of the genre?

Published in: on September 5, 2009 at 10:52 am  Comments (4)  
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4 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Great review. I’ve been thinking about reading this one…

  2. Heather-thanks! It’s a quick read, but fun!

  3. […] Bridget Jones’s Diary, by Helen Fielding […]

  4. […] she was simply making a fool of herself. This is why I don’t usually read chick lit. Whereas Bridget Jones had a lot going for her despite her insecurities, Eloise is merely a sweet, studious girl […]

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