I wasn’t exactly the target audience of Bridget Jones’s Diary the first time I read it. I was a dweeby 16-year-old from Oldham with no boyfriend ever, a shelf full of Malory Towers and an obsession, not with the circumference of my thighs, but with the notion that one day I would win ‘Best Hair’ at the Smash Hits Awards.
While women in their thirties the world over saw Bridget as a reflection of their own lives, to me she just seemed glamorous and cool. She smoked and lived in London, worked in Telly and had the best swear in the world – "F***wittage". While I didn’t identify with the narrative of the book until later, the self-deprecating, confessional style of Bridget’s voice captured my heart and inspired a love affair with "funny books about women" (aka chick lit, if we must) to the point that I now write them myself and run a website www.novelicious.com devoted to the genre.
News of a third Bridget Jones novel for next year has me, and no doubt the trade, quite excited.
The Bridget Jones novels have sold over 15 million copies worldwide. After the first flush of chick lit success, publishers scrambled for more of the same and they did receive - to the extent there has been something of a backlash in recent years.
Aspects of BJD were so often repeated in subsequent imitators that they have now become clichés: the interfering mother, the gay best friend, the choice between cad or nice boy and the obsession with weight. While the truthful, funny voice embodied by Bridget is still a cornerstone of the genre today, narrative themes have moved on. Nowadays our chick lit is less about the post-feminist obligation of trying to have it all and then berating yourself for not quite managing it—it’s more about the discovery of what you truly want in life and finding a way to achieve just that while, of course, being totally hilarious. . .
Helen Fielding is a splendid social satirist and such a skillful writer I have no doubt that she’ll be able to capture the essence of this new cultural climate and ensure that Bridget is as relevant and comical as she was the first time around. She’s in her late forties now. Is she mit bebe? Has she become a busy and important top journalist? What does she think about reality TV, the smoking ban and Lady Gaga?
And what impact will Bridget Mk III have on women's fiction, after the seismic effect of book one 16 years ago? At Novelicious we often see books shoehorned into concepts and covers that mirror their recently successful predecessors, but while Bridget's brand is still huge, especially in the UK (thanks, ITV2 for all those repeats of the films) I don't think we'll see the swathe of imitations we did back in the '90s.
Bridget's power lay less in the content and more the tone, and that's already been re-done to death. But then with another film and a musical on the way,as well as the new novel, it looks like Bridget's going to be as firmly in the zeitgeist as she ever was.
Am v. v excited.
Kirsty Greenwood is founding editor of Novelicious.com and her debut romantic comedy Yours Truly is out now. Follow her on Twitter @KirstyBooks.