I'm not much for the beach read, or chick lit, or whatever this is called, which is fairly dumb of me. I can tell you from hard experience that Gravity's Rainbow
+ the Wisconsin Dells = EPIC FAIL. (Although, to be fair, Wisconsin Dells – Gravity's Rainbow
= regular fail.)
I just re-read this by accident, in a serendipitous fit of laziness and disorganization. I tried to loan my copy to someone, couldn't find it, checked it out of the library, gave it to her, went home, read the best book I've read in a while (The Thirteenth Tale
, btw) and then didn't want to read again for a while. You know how that is? You have such a good time in a story that you know whatever comes next is going to look pale and wan and you're going to resent it just for not being the previous book.
Anyway, here I am bookless, a book teetotaler, a book purity pledger, and then I find my copy of Bridget Jones (yes!), and she beckons to me with a packet of Silk Cut and whatever the bloody hell an alcohol unit is, and my reading abstinence is over. I'm a book slut. Also, possibly a book drunk.
The story is a year in the life of a British, 30-something, unmarried, careerish girl. It's in diary form, as you may already have surmised. The plot, insofar as that matters at all, is cribbed from Pride and Prejudice
, but not in a massively symbolic, look-at-what-I'm-doing-here way. (She also condenses Mrs. Bennett and Lydia into Bridget's mum, which is so funny/perfect.) The tone is over the top, self-deprecating, self-involved, hysterical.
What a perfectly brilliant snack of a book, but I don't mean that in a dissy, ironic, you're not really literature kind of way. Comedy is hard, maybe harder than drama. I absolutely loathe the third-act descent into treacle that plagues most comedies, like the writers woke up and thought, “You know, I've been doing a good job of a light, airy tone with mild observational humor and good characters, but what I really want to be doing is writing To the Lighthouse
and showing how character determines our fates and that Love is the Answer.” Grrr. Fielding doesn't make this mistake, and it's a better book for it.
Fielding also has a nice ear for the way people talk and some of the inflections and innuendos of girlness. For example, there's a minor character called Rebecca who says things like: “She doesn't smile as much as you. That's probably why she hadn't got so many lines,” to Bridget, about a mutual friend who is the same age. Or “That dress makes you look very thin today!” If you can spot the problems with these sentences, then you are a girl. I know this may come as something of a shock for guys who can tell. Here have a Pimms; you'll feel better.