Saturday, 10 October 2015

Bridget Jones' Diary - Helen Fielding

I've read Bridget Jones' Diary several times before, but that was many years ago, so when I found the French translation in a bookshop in Brittany I had to pick it up. It made for much more relaxing holiday reading than the rather heavier L'Allée du Roi I'd brought with me, and I can actually claim it was vaguely educational, teaching me words for everyday things like types of modern clothing, cigarettes (ok, that one's the same) and minor swearwords, all things not often featured in more classic novels.

The translation felt pretty spot-on, keeping the tone of the original novel very well in spite of its cultural Zeitgeists, although it did have resort to footnotes to explain things such as Eastenders or Michael Howard.

One of the things I love most about this novel (as well as the plot, which as everyone knows is based on Pride and Prejudice, so not totally original to Fielding), is the down-to-earth narrator. Published nearly 10 years ago (and how old does that make me feel!), I have yet to come across another novel that feels quite as real. Nothing about Bridget is romanticised – she's no more glamorous, successful, strong or determined that your average woman, but Fielding doesn't use Stephanie Meyer's irritating wish-fulfilment trick of having the whole world fall in love with her supposedly 'average' heroine. Instead Bridget struggles vaguely through life without things falling into her lap, and not only do we as readers see the external parts of her experience - her conversations with others, dramatic scenes and so on - but we are also privy to the general grime and disorder of everyday life. For me this makes it so much more personal and relatable than reading about protagonists who never have to go to the bathroom or wash their clothes.

Of course Bridget Jones' Diary is, at heart, a romantic story, but the focus is very much on a humorous retelling of the problems and anxieties of romance rather than being swept off your feet by a prince charming. The film is a little different from the book, having switched events round and cut a few characters out to streamline the story, and I do have a friend who said this put her off reading the book afterwards, but I really recommend it personally if you're a fan of the film but haven't yet read the book.

Next up: Thank You, Jeeves by P G Wodehouse

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