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Book review: <i>Bridget Jones's Diary</i> by Helen Fielding

As far as I’m concerned, this is one of the defining books of the “chick lit” genre; so defining, in fact, and followed by so many pale imitations, that Bridget Jones’s Diary should probably surpass this tired and overstuffed genre into something else with the emphasis on “literarty”. There have been so many awful books that have tried to sneak into a similar category, but they just can’t touch the wit and style and glorious lovability of Bridget Jones’s Diary.

The content

Bridget Jones is a thirty-something single girl, with her own flat and a group of supportive friends. She also has man problems, weight problems, mother problems, and career problems. Sure, it sounds trite, but Helen Fielding has that true genius of a writer whereby every small detail is a delight to read and serves to create a masterfully told story. Bridget’s diary, written (as you would imagine) in the first person, is written in an authentic shorthand and provokes a close empathy with Bridget, and her story as she lives from day to day and her experiences with work, men, friendships, etc. The diary begins in January with a list of New Year’s resolutions, and ends with her measurements of how she did. It is lots of fun to live Bridget’s life with her while she consumes alcohol units, cigarettes (v. bad) all manner of food stuffs, has an affair with her boss, and tries to cope with her mother dating a deeply suspicious European named Julio while she remains married to “Daddy”. All the characters are three dimensional and completely living, and the novel is referential to outside events while remaining timeless in the story.

What I really appreciate about Bridget Jones’s Diary is that it is not solely the diary of a neurotic thirty-something. It is also a dazzling social commentary, a witty look at British culture and life, and showcases Helen Fielding’s knowledge about literature, art and her understanding of social issues without drawing conclusions or shoving them in the reader’s face. All of which serve to make this book more impressive and multi-faceted.

Now, while Bridget Jones’s Diary because a massive cult sensation with the advent of the movie, I don’t feel like such a prat giving the contents synopsis as I did with Harry Potter. This is because no matter how much you loved the movie, you will love the book more... mainly because Renée Zellweger’s pout doesn’t feature quite so heavily in the novel (and by the sequel movie you just want to run away), but also because a movie, no matter how expertly done, can’t covey the dry wit and empathy that the book seems to effortlessly exude. My one problem with Bridget Jones’s Diary was that I paid $24AUD for it and finished it in an hour and a half. And was left, half way through a train trip, thinking “is that all?”. However, this feeling has gradually dissipated because re-reading Bridget Jones’s Diary certainly doesn’t diminish any enjoyment of it, and I feel I definitely have had my money’s worth.

Who is this book for?

While classed as “chick lit” this book transcends gender. Don’t feel that just because you’re male you are excluded from such things; I know many men who have read this book and utterly loved it. This book is for anyone who wants to see the world through the eyes of Bridget, but also for those who want to experience modern life.

If you like this book, you would also like...

Helen Fielding’s earlier novel, Cause Celeb, which is also excellent. And you will probably find other novels in the “chick lit” genre trite and nowhere as good, so stick to the highbrow, because that’s what this is.

In short

Title: Bridget Jones’s Diary
Author: Helen Fielding
Publisher: Penguin (Non-Classics); Reprint edition
ISBN: 014028009X
Year published: 1999
Pages: 288
Review Type: