‘Diary’ of a Brit hits suprisingly close to home

It is rare and difficult, when exploring reading options, to come across a book that is as much a spot-on assessment of modern human relations as it is a roaringly funny first-person narrative about single life as a thirty-something city dweller. Bridget Jones’s Diary by former journalist Helen Fielding accomplishes just that, however, and smartly addresses the social issues surrounding today’s modern woman in the same witty way that Jane Austen did for Victorian ladies in the 1800’s.

The novel’s concept is quite simple. It consists of a collection of diary entries by fictitious London “singleton” Bridget Jones, and begins on the first day of a year where she vows to “develop inner poise and authority and sense of self as woman, complete without boyfriend, as best way to obtain boyfriend.” Following the course of a year, readers are granted an intimate look into her life, from tribulations, (“Completely exhausted by entire day of date preparation. Being a woman is much worse than being a farmer– there is so much harvesting and crop spraying to be done…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.”), to triumphs, (“Today is an historic and joyous day. After eighteen years of trying to get down to 8 I have finally achieved it. It is no trick of the scales, but confirmed by jeans. I am thin.”).

The book is by no means Shakespeare, or even Kerouac. Some argue that it lacks a significant plot line, other than a rather far-stretched marital conflict between Bridget’s parents and her two relationships over the course of the novel. And it is difficult to condemn these views as baseless. But those who focus on the discrepancies of the literary style miss the main point of the book, which is that society, however much of ourselves we invest in it, is a paradox. Jones wavers constantly between acceptance and enjoyment of her single life, complete with a charismatic circle of friends and a bounty of alcohol, and a dissatisfaction with herself, from her career to family to lack of a serious significant other. She stumbles, however hilariously, from self-fulfillment to self-deprecation brought on by her “smug married” acquaintances, who rudely make insinuations about her romantic solitude and ticking biological clock (“Your career girls! I don’t know! Can’t put it off forever, you know. Tick-tock-tick-tock.”). And yet, in her jumble of thoughts and opinions about the life she leads, there emerges an underlying personality that all women recognize and identify with. You leave the novel wanting to become Bridget Jones’ friend.

Bridget’s underlying realization of society’s flaws are what makes the book so funny, because as she recognizes them she also defends them and tries her best to live up to them (“I am a child of Cosmopolitan culture, have been traumatized by supermodels and too many quizzes and know that neither my personality nor my body is up to it if left to its own devices”). This delightful jumble of a book is worth reading because you emerge from it with a sensation that all of your own thoughts and problems, however asinine they may appear, have been perfectly expressed on paper.