Helen Fielding's Bridget Jones's Diary
, an unabashed riff on Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice
, actually has more in common with Samuel Richardson's Clarissa
. Where Bridget keeps us apprised of her flawed but persistent attempts at self-improvement in a year's worth of diary entries, the morally upright Clarissa wrestles with her love for the devious Lovelace in very private letters to friends and family. With both heroines, we feel like the favored confidante of someone more interesting than we are.
Tennyson referred to Clarissa as a "large still book," and indeed, there's a stillness about most novels structured around letters and journals, no matter how lively the drama they expose. This may be why the audiocassette version of Bridget Jones's Diary sometimes seems shrill instead of earnest, petty instead of poignantly honest. As actress Tracie Bennett (Shirley Valentine) lifts Bridget Jones from the sanctity of the printed page, we find the cast of characters scratching at each other with the noisy exaggeration of a French farce.
To her credit, Bennett infuses the dailiness of Bridget's life with admirable energy, shifting from Bridget's raspiness to Perpetua's cackle to Sharon's screech to Daniel's sneer with the ease of a stand-up comic. And here's one cassette that doesn't suffer from abridgment. What went flying by in written form--the shorthand minutia, the inventory of calories, the fluctuating cigarette consumption--would have collapsed under the tedium of a faithful reading. Although it's a shame that the abridgment favors boyfriend frustrations over the restorative nights out with the girls, it mercifully gives short shrift to Bridget's relentlessly irritating mother. Even with this reshaping, the everywoman resonance of Bridget's ordinary life comes through intact--all the way through to its happy ending. (Running time: three hours, two cassettes) --Ann Senechal
From Publishers Weekly
A huge success in England, this marvelously funny debut novel had its genesis in a column Fielding writes for a London newspaper. It's the purported diary, complete with daily entries of calories consumed, cigarettes smoked, "alcohol units" imbibed and other unsuitable obsessions, of a year in the life of a bright London 30-something who deplores male "fuckwittage" while pining for a steady boyfriend. As dogged at making resolutions for self-improvement as she is irrepressibly irreverent, Bridget also would like to have someone to show the folks back home and their friends, who make "tick-tock" noises at her to evoke the motion of the biological clock. Bridget is knowing, obviously attractive but never too convinced of the fact, and prone ever to fear the worst. In the case of her mother, who becomes involved with a shady Portuguese real estate operator and is about to be arrested for fraud, she's probably quite right. In the case of her boss, Daniel, who sends sexy e-mail messages but really plans to marry someone else, she's a tad blind. And in the case of glamorous lawyer Mark Darcy, whom her parents want her to marry, she turns out to be way off the mark. ("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.") It's hard to say how the English frame of reference will travel. But, since Bridget reads Susan Faludi and thinks of Goldie Hawn and Susan Sarandon as role models, it just might. In any case, it's hard to imagine a funnier book appearing anywhere this year. Major ad/promo; first serial to Vogue; BOMC and QPB main selections; simultaneous Random House audio; author tour. (July) FYI: A movie is in the works from Working Title, the team that produced Four Weddings and a Funeral.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.