Bridget Jones Diary by Helen Fielding (1996)

When I was browsing around the library just before the new year, looking for books to read on vacation or just for books that seemed well-suited for the start of the year, I found a copy of Bridget Jones Diary on the shelves and decided to give it a re-read. While I did not read anything on vacation– it is almost unheard of for me to go 8 days without reading at least two books — because I was too busy enjoying nine-hour days at Universal Studios and The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, I did read it on my first night home while I tried to settled back into my routine. It turns out that it was a timely read, not only because it the book begins on January 1 and follows Bridget through one tumultuous year of her life, but also because a movie loosely based on Fielding’s third book in the Bridget series, Mad About the Boy, is set to be released this year.

Although twenty years have past since Fielding wrote Bridget Jones Diary, I found it to still be funny, touching, and relatable. In the story, which is told through a series of journal entries made by Bridget most days of the year, Bridget starts the year setting goals that will help her start living a more adult life: drink less, eat healthier, get more rest, and start making smart choices about the men she dates. All goals that many women around the world were certainly making earlier this month. As the book unfolds, we see Bridget struggle to keep her resolutions, stumble though several near-disasters in work, life, and love, and try to keep a positive attitude that life is looking up. Despite a horrible affair with her boss, her parents surprise separation, and a sudden career-shift Bridget keeps her head held high and forges ahead, determined to create a better life for herself even if she has to embarrass herself mightily in the process.

At its heart, the book is a light-hearted examination of the life of a modern single woman. Bridget does not want to trade in her London-based, career-centered life for suburban married motherhood. She simply would like to be able to tone down her urban life just a touch, get a better job in her field, and find a decent man to date. She and her friends struggle to find men who will treat them as equals and not demand that they conform to unrealistic ideals of womanhood or accept their commitment-phobe histrionics. Just like women today, they want companionship and love without having to give up any parts of their independent lives. These are all current concerns and just as complex for women in 2016 as they were in 1996. (In fact, the only thing that feels out of date is the technology Bridget and her boss use to flirt at work, the company’s clunky intranet email system.)

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