Book a Day: Bridget Jones’ Diary

BRIDGE JONES DIARY 2I don’t know what made me think that this was a Book a Day book. I mean, it’s got a normal amount of writing on every normal-sized page, and weighs in at 236 pages. This is not on par with all the other books I pulled.

Still, it was in the pile and I just blinding grabbed it and started reading.

Aaaand I managed to read it in less than two days.

This is exactly the type of book I was reading fifteen years ago, by which I mean I was reading whatever interesting-sounding and super-popular books popped up on the new releases table. So I did read it then, and the copy was still on my book shelf. The movie has become an annual favorite (which I watch, alone, every year, with maybe a glass of wine and definitely in my pajamas), so I was interested to see how the book (which I couldn’t recall very well) would stack up to the movie and also to the literary snobbishness that I possess on some days and not on others.

The story was so different from the movie! I mean, of course the girl gets the guy, but the road there is v. different. And really, all the characters, including to an extent Bridget, are also v. different.

Let’s talk about the story, then (which is loosely based on Pride and Prejudice.) Bridget is about 30 and is single. She lives in London and both her family and relationship lives are complicated. She can’t see to “land a man,” much to the chagrin of the “smug marrieds” around her, and she also can’t seem to stop smoking, drinking, and eating empty calories. So she gets a journal and makes some resolutions. What we get is a year of journaling, in the form of an epistolary novel. Bridget is cheeky, funny, witty, and well-loved, despite claims to the contrary. She is pretty horrible at keeping her resolutions, but keeps doggedly pursuing the next dead-end avenue to happiness which her friends and community proffer. We can all relate, even if we’re not single.

I did laugh out loud some. I did cheer for the heroine. I did get sick of the counting at the beginning of each entry. I did sorta want to get away from the epistolary form but also kept thinking that it was one of the only times I could think where epistolary form actually worked well. The issue with it was that certainly much of what was in the journal would only have ever been in Bridget’s head, or took too many words for the time allotted, or was written at a moment when you are sure she would not have had her journal poised on her knee. You just have to let it be, I suppose. Don’t overthink it.

There certainly was a lot that I couldn’t relate to or even condone. But Bridget’s charm has always been that she is very realistic, as are all her friends and family. Which makes Diary a comedy of the best type. You get LOL tears in your eyes, like “Yeeaaas!” but you do it through a character. Plenty of social commentary, although some of that is getting, dare I say it, outdated. At heart, though, Bridget suffers and triumphs where many modern people are sure to continue to. Diets, for example: “Have reached point where nutritional ideal is to eat nothing at all and that the only reason people eat is because they are so greedy they can not stop themselves from breaking out and ruining their diets.” Or marriage: “’All these years your father’s made such a fuss about doing the bills and taxes—as if that excused him from thirty years of washing up.’” Or motherhood: “Competitive Child-rearing.”

It’s a light read, meant for a vacation or the beach or just for that type of reader. It’s a sort of classic of popular fiction, and I did enjoy it. Not an amazing book, but fun and funny.

(There is a sequel, Bridget Jones: Edge of Reason, that I am reluctant to read because the movies go so far afield of our happy ending, I just don’t know if I can. We’ll see.)

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BRIDGET JONES DIARY MOVIEMOVIE

Like I said, I watch this movie every pre-Christmas holiday. It is, like its counterpart, a classic of popular cinema. It is similar in tone to the book, although, like I said, the story itself is pretty different, borrowing scenarios from the book more than actual story. Zellweger famously put on weight for her role, and everyone does a great job acting out the people who rotate around her. Full of classic scenes (which were not usually from the book). Grant plays a great rogue. Darcy a great, bumbling but accomplished nice guy. Etc. It’s a well-put-together romantic comedy of the blockbuster sort. And if you’re an Anglophile…

Easter egg alert: Both Hugh Grant and Colin Firth are mentioned in the book, which is awesome because they became the two actors who played the male counterparts to Renee Zellweger’s Bridget.

In the end, both the movie and book have something to offer, and they are different enough that you can enjoy both, each in their own way.

(There are two more movies, The Edge of Reason, and Bridget Jones’ Baby. I saw the first one and was so irritated that the same rogue kept popping up, I didn’t really enjoy it (although it was funny). There is no way I am ever going to see that third movie because he is back again, inserting himself into what should by now be a mostly-stable marriage. Bahr.)

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