Monday, September 12, 2011

Bridget Jones's Diary by Helen Fielding

Mark your calendars, here's an occasion where the movie is better than the book.

Not a lot. Just enough to not be a tie.

But that's not to say that the book isn't good, because it is. Sometimes? I'm not sure how to organize my thoughts here.


Okay, I've got it.

Things I liked:

I liked the honesty of the relationships between Bridget and her friends, like how Bridget's friend Jude stays with her boyfriend Vile Richard despite his vile-ness and all of her friends saying she'd be better off without him. We all have that friend: miserable but just can't let go for whatever reason.

And I liked the honesty of the relationships between Bridget and her family, and family friends-- like the unending parade of parties, picnics, and celebrations you're forced to attend, plastering a smile to your face. And Bridget, like all single women, are hounded with the same question by them all: When are you going to get married? I was only 14 when Arthur and Janet got married and even then I was getting "When's it going to be your turn?" Bridget really is the voice of single women everywhere, it's not an exaggeration.

Bridget's relationships with men are spot-on, as well: waiting for the phone to ring, checking 100 times to see if maybe you missed a call when you weren't paying attention, and the flirty first stages of getting together and the constant nagging doubts, "Does he really like me? Really? No, I mean, but really?"

And Fielding summed up the amount of work that goes into womanhood better than anyone or anything else I've ever seen:

6 p.m. Completely exhausted by entire day of date preparation. Being a woman is worse than being a farmer- there is so much harvesting and crop spraying to be done: legs to be waxed, underarms shaved, eyebrows plucked, feet pumiced, skin exfoliated and moisturized, spots cleansed, roots dyed, eyelashes tinted, nails filed, cellulite massaged, stomach muscles exercised. The whole performance is so highly tuned you only need to neglect it for a few days for the whole thing to go to seed. Sometimes I wonder what I would be like if left to revert to nature- with a full beard and handlebar mustache on each shin, Dennis Healey eyebrows, face a graveyard of dead skin cells, spots erupting, long curly fingernails like Struwwelpeter, blind as a bat and stupid runt of species as no contact lenses, flabby body flobbering around. Ugh, ugh. Is it any wonder girls have no confidence?

How right is that? She's inside my head.

Also inside my head, and also a little inside Mia's from The Princess Diaries head (the novels, not the movies), Bridget thinks it's hot when boys get authoritative-- and Lord, ain't it the truth. Whew.

Thing I mostly liked but really sort of didn't:

The deal with Bridget's weight. This is delicate because Bridget's obsession and confusion and struggle and up, down, up up up up, down, up, down, down, up up up up, down, up, down, down, down dance with the scale are all deeply realistic, the amount of weight being talked about (and sneered about) is paltry. Bridget spends the book at about 125 pounds and is fixated on losing 6.

And I know when you're slender and always have been that those few pounds really seem to make a difference but we need to collectively, as a world, start getting realistic about numbers. Nobody, no matter how cruel, will say about 123 pound woman that's over 5 feet tall, "I thought you said she was thin." This is the kind of thing that fuels eating disorders and shouldn't be portrayed as "normal", like everywoman Bridget Jones.

To rectify this situation with myself I mentally added 30 pounds to each of the weights Bridget claimed. Made me feel much better.

Things I didn't like:

Certain elements of the story bothered me. In fact, the worst subplot of them all was excluded from the movie and the movie was the better for it, it was just too, too unrealistic.

I also didn't like some of the style Fielding used for Bridget's writings, at times it felt far too slangy...but then, I was never the type to doodle or shorthand in my own diaries, and it grated me in The Princess Diaries, too. That's probably just a personal thing...

And I wasn't a fan of Mark Darcy's part in the book, I think his character was also handled better by the movie. While I liked how he loved Bridget all along, flaws and all, he was colder in the book, and when he comes through for her in the end it seems to almost come out of nowhere. Especially what he goes through for her before they're even properly dating! Not kidding, he goes to Portugal. I felt like a queen when Herbert once stopped at Wawa for me on his way to my house and he didn't have to go a foot out of his way to do it. AND we were dating at the time.

Another thing, that was a complete surprise, was the confrontation (read: fight) between Mark and Daniel doesn't happen in the book. That was surprising. Maybe it's in the following books, I don't know, I'm just saying that it doesn't happen in this book. And I was disappointed.

In the end, it's a good book-- a light, entertaining read with genuine heart and solid writing.

3 stars out of 5.

See Blauthor, Blauthor! for more of my reviews.

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