Warming Up to Bridget Jones’s Diary

When I began reading Bridget Jones’s Diary (1996) by Helen Fielding and number 68 the BBC book list, I hated it.  It is full of foul language, dirty references, and the seemingly pathetic life of an annoying heroine.  I wanted to poke my eyeballs out rather than finish reading it, and I saw the movie years ago, so why read it?  But I felt that I had to continue because of my goal of reading all of the books on the BBC list.  (It turns out that lists can be limiting!)

But by the middle of the book, I was laughing and looking forward to more.  Bridget grew on me, and her antics reminded me of some of the great comic women of television, including Lucille Ball.  Bridget finds herself wearing a playboy bunny costume to a demure afternoon tea, accidentally making blue soup, obsessively counting her calories, and wanting to kill her mother.  She’s constantly doing and saying ridiculous things in front of the man we know she will eventually fall for, Mark Darcy.

bridget jones cover
Yes, Bridget Jones’s Diary is a parody, in a roundabout way, of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.  It is a modern retelling of the love story that keeps the reader guessing as to when and how and if a romance will blossom.  Will Mark turn out to be nice, underneath that gruff exterior (and the argyle sweater)?  Will Bridget find out who she is and learn to accept herself enough to relax and be happy (and get the man)?

Well, the answer to all of those questions is yes, but the fun is in reading such a tale and waiting for it to happen.  The anticipation is the best part.  We all know what the end will be.  It’s formulaic.

The novel is also a satire of modern life.  Fielding expertly makes fun of feminism, traditional values, insecurity, housewives, single women, rich people, politics, workplaces, etc. etc.  She makes fun of everybody and everything, so there’s no sense in being offended.  All of these themes could be explored in terms of politics and ideology, but when it comes down to it, the book is really about loneliness.  Bridget is lonely.  Her jerky boss/boyfriend is lonely.  Her married and pregnant friends are lonely.  The older women in her mother’s circle are lonely.  Nobody wants to be alone or left behind but all of them are in some way or another.  This is the human condition.

Because we are all lonely, no matter our circumstances, it reminds me of the importance of serving others.  Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Those who are not looking for happiness are the most likely to find it, because those who are searching forget that the surest way to be happy is to seek happiness for others.”  I think that’s why serving and loving others is so important.  We all hear that the best way to forget yourself is to think about somebody else, and that’s true.  It will make you forget about your own worries.

So, in the end I liked Bridget Jones’s Diary, although at first I wanted to hate it.  I imagined myself ranking all of the BBC books and putting this one dead last, or writing a post about how awful and raucous and uncouth this book is.  Then I started laughing.  And I couldn’t stop.

You could say it was v.g.

35 thoughts on “Warming Up to Bridget Jones’s Diary

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  1. there’s going to be another sequel sometime end of this year, I believe. I kind of thought the story was done in the first two books but apparently not. Looking forward to more Bridget Jones 🙂

    1. Yes, I heard that Helen Fielding is writing another Bridget Jones novel. I also heard that they are making a movie called “Bridget Jones’s Baby” but I’m not sure when it will be released.
      I saw the two movies before I read “Bridget Jones’s Diary” and I haven’t read the sequel to the first book. I think the movie is definitely funnier than the book; perhaps one of those rare instances when the cinematic adaptation is actually better?

        1. I’ve seen it at least two or three times!

          Re: the sequel…I had a look at my Twitter feed just now and a tweet from the publisher Alfred A. Knopf popped up, informing me that the sequel (“Bridget Jones: Mad about the Boy”) will be released in October. Hopefully it will be amusing!

  2. I loved Bridget Jones. She did seem to reflect how many of my contemporaries and I felt at a certain time and I loved that she wasn’t perfect at all the domestic things and just muddled through life. I didn’t think the films actually did the books justice even though I did like them (apart from the British stereotyping of her – how she was portrayed on screen was I felt was different to her character in the book). I might go back and re-read this!

  3. I really need to get my hands on this book. I couldn’t stand the movie, but I believe that I would really enjoy some pages! That MLK quote was fantastic. *light bulb* Aha! Forgetting self, to pour our hearts into others. Love that you incorporated this! Thank you for the review, and happy reading to you!

    1. Thanks for reading! Yes, the MLK quote is fantastic, as they all are. He’s so inspiring and appropriate for any occasion or situation. If you read the book, I hope you enjoy it!

  4. I liked the movie much better than the movie ( maybe my own personal dislike of anything Rene Zellweger does) I thought she made a slightly annoying character beyond annoying-thought I did LOVE Colin Firth as Darcy. I felt the same way- she grows on you.

  5. I love it when you read popular fiction, Emily! When a smart person analyzes something silly it’s always fun. That said, I liked Bridget Jones, silliness and all. So funny! I do find with British chick-lit that the disparity between the main characters is always enormous. The ditziest girls wind up with these incredibly smart – and always super-wealthy, because England’s expensive – men. I wonder what message that’s supposed to send. At least in P and P Elizabeth Bennett is an intelligent, educated, well-read woman. But in the modern versions (like Shopaholic!) the Mr. Darcy character ends up with girls resembling her ridiculous sister Lydia!

    1. That’s a good point. It is almost the message that men like ditzy women or that such women need men to rescue them. I do love the Shopaholic series. I wrote a post about it a while back, but I won’t analyze it. I just enjoy it! Too much fun to worry about the deeper messages. 🙂

        1. LOL, BTG. Of course you aren’t. Nor are most of the men I associate with. I’m realizing more and more that “media” portrayals of anybody are misleading. We talk a lot about standards of beauty in the media, but certainly most of us are unhappy with the stereotypes that are reinforced about all groups. Thanks for reminding me of that.

  6. When I first read this book I was single and could totally relate to being harassed by the smug marrieds. When I tried to explain to. Married friend why I loved the book I think I ended up insulting her, rather than selling the humor of the book. Plus I am a huge sucker for any Austen tale. Maybe that is why I liked “you’ve got mail” so much.

    1. Oh no! It is for sure funny, but that’s too bad about your married friend. Which Austen book is You’ve Got Mail? My personal favorite of the modern adaptations is Clueless.

  7. I feel the need to play “devil’s advocate” here… Given that one of your previous recent posts dealt with abandoning books…was this an exception for you? If not for your determination to read all the BBC books, would you have abandoned this one? If so, do you feel as if you would have missed out on a truly enjoyable experience? I am so torn about this idea of just not finishing a book… 🙂

    1. Yes! I absolutely would have abandoned it. For sure. I felt forced to finish it. I would have missed out on appreciating the book, but I would’ve read something else!

  8. I’ve heard great reviews on Bridget Jones but have never had a chance to read it! I’ll definitely have to get aroud to it now!
    I have hower read Olivia Joules and the Overactive Imagination by Fielding. It had me laughing out loud in public. Great read!

    1. Me neither! But I think that’s what I like. Sometimes those zany characters speak to me more because they represent what I’m not and what I wish I had the guts to be sometimes.

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