Thursday, July 9, 2009

Book #41: Bridget Jones' Diary by Helen Fielding

Bridget Jones has issues. She thinks she's overweight at 130 lbs. She obsesses about every single thing she does, wondering what Cosmo would say. She drinks too much, smokes too much, hates her job and and has bad luck with men. Most of these issues would easily go away if she just stopped reading fashion magazines, collecting self-help books that constantly contradict themselves and most importantly, stop listening to her clueless friends.

And still I can't help but love her a little. Bear with me. I know that I shouldn't like this book. I know that Bridget is insane and this book gave rise to a thousand other confessional diary-type imitators and that Chick Lit should be derided and ignored. But you know what? This book grew on me, and it was so damn funny and lighthearted that I just ended up loving the hell out of it. And it's because Bridget is so damn likable and could easily be someone I know, and even sometimes, myself. Bridget has moments of crippling insecurity, where, because she's a little bit different and doesn't look out for every single thing she says she ends up looking like a weirdo. Bridget just wants to fit in and be a perfectly poised lady while not realizing that people like her because she is different. Particularly men. So to me, it seems that Fielding is setting her up as an example of what not to do. And it's great.

So the whole thing is a sort of modern retelling of Pride and Prejudice. Bridget meets Mark Darcy (*snort*) at a party given by her mother, and they dislike each other immediately. Bridget eventually starts having an affair with her boss, who used to know Darcy and fuels Bridget's dislike for him. And you probably know the rest of the story. Fielding cleverly inserts all these cute little Austen references, and the plot keeps moving along nicely, if predictably.

But it's really the character of Bridget that sells the book, and how well Fielding writes her. She's that clueless girl in high school who got drunk and never quite knew what she was talking about. There are some scenes, written by "drunk Bridget" that are just hilariously funny as the words start slurring and blending together. Bridget's mother is everyone's nightmare and she's just so perfectly insane that she steals every single scene she's in. I only wish Mark Darcy were better developed, but he's as much a mystery to us as he is to Bridget, and the rest of the characters more than make up for it.

I would almost say that this book is like "High Fidelity" for girls. A book on what NOT to do in relationships. I'm not saying it's nearly as good or insightful as Nick Hornby's book, or that this is what all women are like. Just that it's got that same brand of British humor and both main characters are both perfect examples of how to screw up your relationship.

And it's just really freakin' funny. It's silly and lighthearted and shouldn't be taken too seriously. Bridget's particular insecurities may not be something that we all relate to, but I think that we can all relate to her being insecure because she's a little bit different. And in the end, it's just a hell of a lot of fun to read.

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