Bridget Jones is probably best known through the 2001 film with Renée Zellweger, but when Helen Fielding’s novel first came out in 1996, it kick started a new kind of novel written by female authors for savvy city-smart ladies whose turbulent and hilarious love lives had the ring of truth for lots of readers. Known as ‘chick lit’, it boomed in the late 90’s and early 2000’s and found a strong following with the TV show Sex and the City (adapted from a novel published shortly after Bridget Jones’ Diary).
The associations of chick lit came to be a burden, though, as many people saw it as formulaic and trivial. However, even for people bored of chick lit, Bridget Jones’ Diary: A Novel is funny, cutting and beautifully observed.
One thing that makes Bridget a sympathetic and fun character for readers is her constant self-doubt, as she challenges herself to lose weight and drink and smoke less, but always seems to take one step forward and two steps back. Many readers identify with her assessment of her life (and the fact that it always seems to need improvement) but her neurotic and self-critical attitudes also provide a valuable view of Bridget from the outside. Fielding writes Bridget’s flaws with compassion and so the reader wants to help her understand that she’s brilliant, warts and all, and then perhaps start to look at their own self-criticism with a kinder eye.
Helen Fielding began writing Bridget Jones as a column in the Independent newspaper at the same time as the 1995 BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice came out (the one where Colin Firth jumps in a pond and gets his shirt wet) and Bridget obsessed over the series. When writing the novel of her column, Fielding was clearly more than a little influenced by Pride and Prejudice, as Bridget is torn between staid and formal Mark Darcy and exciting but selfish Daniel Cleaver, much as Elizabeth Bennet is torn between Fitzwilliam Darcy and George Wickham. In fact, Fielding follows a lot of the same plots, as Bridget first meets Darcy at a party at his posh family’s house where he insults her without realising she’s listening and he has a history with Daniel Cleaver not unlike the bad blood between Darcy and Wickham.
Ultimately, Bridget may tell herself that she wants to lose weight, indulge less and get the cheating, charming Daniel over the stuffy Mark Darcy, but we, and she, know that at the end of it all, she’ll end up with the right person and will always be Bridget Jones, without need of justification or alteration.
Find Bridget Jones’ Diary: A Novel by Helen Fielding in the BOOK ZONE at 823.91 for the novel or the audiobook.
If you liked Bridget Jones’ Diary…
Try the film adaptation directed by Sharon Maguire in the DVD LOBBY at 791.43. The film forgoes some of Bridget’s sharp wit for visual gags, but it’s a great laugh and Renée Zellweger is the perfect Bridget Jones. Colin Firth (Darcy in the 1995 BBC adaptation) plays Mark Darcy and Hugh Grant plays Daniel Cleaver (his defining Jane Austen role was as Edward Ferrars in Ang Lee’s adaption of Sense and Sensibility).
Have a look at the novel that started it all, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. It may be a classic but it’s a great read all the same. Read our review of it here: https://ccnlibraryblog.wordpress.com/2014/01/15/pride-and-prejudice-2/
You’ll probably enjoy Lost in Austen, a TV series about a smart modern woman who wants to date Darcy…and then finds a way to do so! Amanda Price (Jemima Rooper) swaps places with Elizabeth Bennet (Gemma Arterton) and causes chaos by throwing the plot of her favourite novel off track.