Bridget Jones's Diary (Review)

Labels: A Lighter Touch

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Bridget Jones's Diary
Helen Fielding, 1998
271 pp.

Book Review by Molly Lundquist
August 2007
Quintessential "chick-lit," Bridget Jones is a romp of a read, a modern send-up of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. Yet when it comes to her main character, Helen Fielding departs from her literary model—Bridget is one of literature's silliest, most hapless heroines. Elizabeth Bennett, she's not.

Aside from Bridget's self-deprecating voice, her fruitless attempts at self-improvement, her friends, her mother, her job, her boss...the great fun of this book is to find its parallel points with Austen's P & P.

Here, for example, is Bridget's first impression* of Mark Darcy whom she meets at a New Year's Day party:

It struck me as pretty ridiculous to be called Mr. Darcy and to stand on your own looking snooty at a party. It's like being called Heathcliff and insisting on spending the entire evening in the garden, shouting "Cathy" and banging your head against a tree.

Talk about writing with a knowing nod and wink to your readers: we have to be in-the-know to get the double joke—on Austen's P & P and Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights. And then, of course, we're tickled with ourselves because we do get it. Cheeky, really cheeky.

The book is written as a diary with blow-by-blow, up-to-the-minute entries. It might well be a spoof on another famous novel, Samuel Richardson's Pamela, one of the earliest English novels, also in diary form. Henry Fielding (of Tom Jones fame) thought the heroine Pamela so self-absorbed and manipulative that he wrote a parody of it called Shamela—and that kicked off a very public row between these two literary giants. It took little Jane Austen to settle the issue at the heart of the dispute (in P & P). 

I think Helen Fielding, a descendant of Henry Fielding—in kind, if not kin—knew exactly what she was doing by using a 1st-person diary approach. It's very funny stuff. And the movie's funny, too—especially with Colin Firth playing Mark Darcy: another nod and wink, this time to the BBC version of Pride & Prejudice.

See our Reading Guide for Bridget Jones's Diary.

* "First Impressions" was Austen's original title for Pride and Prejudice.

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