Book Review: Self-Help for the Lazy Singletons ; the Edge of Reason by Helen Fielding Picador Pounds 12.99
Orr, Deborah, The Independent (London, England)
Bridget is back. Vg for Helen Fielding's enthusiastic readers, who so adored her comic alter ego that Fielding is now listed among Britain's 20 most popular writers. That we remain a nation of book- lovers is cited as a central piece of evidence by those who argue that as a society we are braining up, not dumbing down. But in a vicious circle of contradiction, the embrace by the nation, and the world, of Bridget, who is herself an avid reader of self-help tomes, suggests that to be disarmingly frank about your own self-regarding shallowness is somehow to be actually rather deep. It's a kind of dumbed-up braining-down thing. Not that you can deny that Fielding was on to something in the inventing of Bridget Jones.
There is no doubt that her rendering of the character captures perfectly the texture and timbre of the lives of a whole class of young women, young women whom others aspire to being, to boot. Yes, there really are absolutely zillions of single career girls who have grown up as one of the first generations of women to experience real freedom, and who have squandered that freedom on watching their weight, fetishising the banalities of their timid hedonism, and thinking or talking of little other than men, other men and men.
There are few women who could say with honesty that they recognise nothing of themselves in Bridget. I wish that I were one of them. I'm not, though - I console myself - nearly as pathetically self-absorbed as Bridget, and I'm sure that such consolations are shared by many of Fielding's readers, who surely cannot all be straightforwardly laughing with Bridget rather than at her.
It is profoundly depressing to have to accept that in this comic creation, Fielding has nailed many truths about the essentials of modern womanhood. Among the minority of brave souls who have vilified Bridget - chiefly Julie Burchill - there is real anger that Fielding has exposed the narrowness of women today so deftly. Maybe they will find solace in the fact that the sequel is nothing more than a parody of a parody, with a plot so inadequate and so obvious that to offer a summary would overly dignify it. There are still laughs to be had, and shrewd, subversive little points are still scored, but in the main this novel is an unquestioning paean to the Bridgets of this world, and not the satirical send-up that the first diary at least appeared to be. …