Ben Reviews: Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding

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As an American man who got married at the age of 29, I’m not the intended audience for this book. So take the rest of this with a grain of salt, I guess.

I understand that it began as a series of semi-autobiographical articles that became so popular that a novel was requested. I think I can understand the appeal of the articles. In short form I think Bridget Jones’s diary entries could be cathartic for a lot of people, especially straight women, struggling with the over-30 dating scene. As a novel, it overstays its welcome. Bridget’s personality is that she has a lot of body positivity issues, an eating disorder, a pack-a-day cigarette habit, and the beginnings of alcoholism. Later in the book she’ll also develop a weird scratch-off lottery ticket habit it.

It’s meant to be quirky. You’re not supposed to take it very seriously, except for a weird moment at the end where Bridget admits that she no longer thinks of food as something you need to survive, but rather a weakness to which one succumbs. I guess my thing is, if the book isn’t about Bridget’s issues then it really isn’t about anything. There’s a slight undercurrent of a Pride and Prejudice parody with a character who is literally named “Mr. Darcy”, but Bridget isn’t much of an Elizabeth. So all you’re sort of left with is a loosely connected series of journal entries describing a woman who drinks too much, smokes too much, and is in desperate need of treatment for an eating disorder, trying and failing to find a man.

Also to be clear on that last point, she is trying to find “a man”. Not love. Not Mr. Right. Someone whom she can tolerate and who can tolerate her. Any man will do as long as he can keep the crippling loneliness at bay and not cheat on her. I have no idea what Mark Darcy sees in her. It can’t be the Pride and Prejudice ‘she’s not like other girls’ thing, because the whole point of Bridget Jones is she’s supposed to be relatable. She is every girl over 30 who is fed up with being made to feel ashamed of being single, and also craving companionship. But also, she falls from career to career, has no interests, and kind of ignores her friends.

I think if you’re the right person and you’re in the right mood you’ll get a laugh out of this. I definitely think it’s less relevant as time goes by. At nearly 30 itself, the book is probably losing some of its relatability to the modern singleton.


Content and Ideas 2/5: There are a few clear ideas here: a pride and prejudice parody, a flawed but relatable woman trying to get her life together, a wacky mother’s background misadventure. None of these things are really developed. It’s more like a sitcom where everything is reset to zero at the end of each chapter, except instead of jokes there’s a list of calories eaten, cigarettes smoked, and alcohol units drank.

Organization 2/5: For an article in a magazine or newspaper these journal entries would work well. For a novel it gets a little tedious. As for pacing, the book is a treadmill. In the world of Bridget Jones entropy does not increase and time can flow backwards. She chases a man who is not interested in her for anything except sex, who has explicitly stated that, for several hundred pages then she gets with another guy she met a couple of times when Helen Fielding nears her length requirement.

Use of Language 4/5: Bridget Jones’s Diary has a very distinct style and I think this is probably why it’s popular. In small doses it is fun to read. The characters have unique voices. As archetypes of modern dating they are relatable. Helen Fielding writes well, it’s the storytelling that is the issue.

Personal Preference 1/5: Couldn’t stand it. Wouldn’t have read it unless I was forced to.

Recommendation Strength 1/5: Honestly, even for people who like this book, I think there are books they would like more. There’s a lot of things wrong with this Bridget Jones’s Diary and not terribly much right with it.


I co-host the Words About Books podcast with my writing partner Nate.

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