Helen Fielding Biography


Journalist and novelist Helen Fielding, the second of four children born to a mill manager and a homemaker in West Yorkshire, England, received her degree in journalism in 1979 from St. Anne’s College at Oxford University. After graduating, Fielding worked for the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) for ten years, leading to her investigative concentration on famine relief work throughout the world. In the early 1990’s, Fielding spent time in Ethiopia, Mozambique, and Sudan, producing documentaries for the charity Comic Relief.

Her experience forms the basis of Cause Celeb, a novel based on the life-threatening issues facing African refugees from the distanced perspective of privileged, famous people searching for a pet cause. The novel is told from the humorous point of view of Rosie Richardson, a twenty-something publicist disillusioned with London’s social scene. Fielding’s journalistic background allows her to relate the facts of the political and cultural plight of Africa while implying a satiric undertone in the novel; the result is a sometimes disturbing, darkly comic indictment of celebrity aid relief.

During her work with the BBC and Comic Relief, Fielding submitted a manuscript for a romance novel to publisher Mills and Boon, which promptly rejected the piece. She attempted a script for a television situation comedy based on the life of a single woman in the London publicity circuit, but she abandoned the project. Her focus shifted to writing a novel about the social conditions of the Caribbean region, supporting herself financially in the meantime by publishing freelance work. Fielding’s feature articles and food reviews in British newspapers eventually led to a weekly column for The Independent in 1995, a series of self-contained diary entries under the nom de plume of Bridget Jones, a single woman presumably in her twenties or...

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The daughter of a mill manager and a homemaker, Helen Fielding was born in Morley, West Yorkshire, England, on February 19, 1958. She attended a local girls’ school and then studied at Oxford, reading English at St. Anne’s College and receiving her B.A. in that field of study. After graduating from Oxford in 1979, Fielding spent the next ten years working as a producer for British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) Television in London.

During her time at the BBC, Fielding worked with former Oxford classmate and friend Richard Curtis (a screenwriter for the 1994 film Four Weddings and a Funeral, among others) on Comic Relief, a televised appeal for African famine relief, which, in addition to providing aid to Africa also gave Fielding the raw material for her first published novel, Cause Celeb (1994). This novel is about a woman who flees to Africa and becomes an administrator for a famine relief organization in order to escape the effects of a soured romance in Britain. The success of Cause Celeb prompted an intriguing invitation from the Independent newspaper in 1995: Would she like to write a weekly column in the voice of a character of her own creation? Fielding’s acceptance of the offer was the birth of Bridget Jones.

Drawing on a feature of her own diaries from college years past, Fielding began each of the columns with Bridget’s current weight and the number of alcohol units, cigarettes,...

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It is an open question whether Helen Fielding’s novels will prove to be of lasting literary value, but the cultural significance of Bridget Jones is unquestionable. Critics may bemoan Bridget’s superficiality, self-centeredness, and ignorance of the world, and champions may see these very traits as part of a larger cultural critique. However, no one can deny that Bridget Jones is “real” in the sense that she is a character who speaks to and for women all over the Western world.