Helen Fielding 1958-
English novelist, screenwriter, and essayist.
The following entry presents an overview of Fielding's career through 2000.
Fielding is best known as the creator of the popular character Bridget Jones, an English woman in her mid-thirties whose adventures in single life have spawned legions of admirers. In the novel Bridget Jones's Diary (1996) and its sequel, Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason (2000), Bridget is depicted as a chain-smoking, wine-drinking Londoner who obsesses over her appearance, her career, and most of all, her love life. The novels are structured around Bridget's diary entries, each of which is prefaced by a list of Bridget's most recently consumed calories, cigarettes smoked, wine imbibed, and phone calls logged to ex-boyfriends. These details work to create a vivid portrait of a “singleton,” Bridget's preferred term for an unmarried adult. Both novels met with popular and critical acclaim in the United Kingdom and abroad. Many critics contend that Fielding's success derives from her readers’ ability to identify with Bridget's tumultuous but also humorous quest for physical and emotional stability.
Fielding was born in 1958 and raised in Yorkshire, England. Her father was a mill manager and her mother was a homemaker. Fielding attended a private girls’ school for several years before matriculating to Oxford University, where she graduated in 1979. She worked in communications as a producer for the British Broadcasting Company (BBC) before becoming a freelance writer. Fielding's first novel, Cause Celeb (1994), was an examination of the complexities of African famine relief, based on her experiences producing the Comic Relief charity telethon for the BBC. The following year, the London Independent offered Fielding the opportunity to write a weekly column from the perspective of a fictional character. Fielding agreed and began writing under the name “Bridget Jones,” a single professional woman in her early thirties. Bridget's romantic exploits became incredibly popular with Londoners and, in 1996, Fielding turned the columns into a novel, Bridget Jones's Diary. The novel was an immediate success and, four years later, Fielding released a sequel titled Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason.
In 1997, Fielding collaborated with Simon Bell and Richard Curtis on the 1987 volume Who's Had Who: In Association with Berk's Rogerage: An Historical Rogister Containing Official Lay Lines of History from the Beginning of Time to the Present Day. A spoof on the famous volume Who's Who, which outlines the ancestry of Great Britain's nobility, the “rogerage” and “rogister” of the subtitles play on the British slang verb “to roger,” which means to have sex. Fielding's next work, Cause Celeb, focuses on Rosie Richardson, a woman who flees to Africa to escape a bungled love affair with Oliver Marchant, a BBC anchorman, and winds up managing an international food charity involved in the famine relief effort. When the charity chooses to ignore the rumored possibility of a locust plague, Rosie and her new doctor boyfriend return to England to enlist the aid of various celebrities, including Marchant, to publicize the coming disaster. Although Cause Celeb was republished later to capitalize on the popularity of Fielding's Bridget Jones books, it was met with limited interest. Bridget Jones's Diary, Fielding's most recognized work, is loosely based on Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. Fielding has referred to the character of Bridget Jones as “an imaginary amalgam of insecurities.” The diary offers a daily chronicle of Bridget's life, which centers around her friends, her parents, and her regular battles with food, nicotine, wine, and men. Bridget is desperate to find the right man, although she resists her mother's efforts to match her up with the milquetoast lawyer, Mark Darcy (named after Austen's romantic hero in Pride and Prejudice). However, after Darcy saves her parents from financial disaster, Bridget realizes that he may be the man she's looking for. For the sequel, Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, Fielding again found inspiration in the works of Jane Austen, this time basing the novel's plot on Austen's Persuasion. In The Edge of Reason, Bridget is now working as a reporter for a current-affairs television show, while living happily with Darcy. Bridget's anxieties about their relationship threaten to break the pair apart and cause Bridget to become addicted to self-help books. After a series of misunderstandings during one of her reporting assignments, Bridget becomes imprisoned in Thailand on drug charges and Darcy rushes to save her. Ultimately, Bridget triumphs, regains her freedom, and finds her way home to her native London. In 2001, a movie adaptation of Bridget Jones's Diary was released, starring Renée Zellweger as Bridget and Colin Firth as Mark Darcy.
Although not widely reviewed during its first publication, Cause Celeb was considered an admirable debut novel by several critics. Fielding received praise for its biting commentary on shallow media celebrities, but some reviewers found the juxtaposition of serious and satiric elements to be confusing and lacking in consistency. After the release of Bridget Jones's Diary, Fielding experienced enormous commercial and critical success. The novel was acclaimed not only for its strong comedic voice, but also for its portrayal of a lead female character who speaks openly about her emotions in realistic, frank language. Critics compared the book favorably to other works in the English comedic-diary genre, including George and Weedon Grossmith's The Diary of a Nobody and Sue Townsend's The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13 3/4. A vocal minority of reviewers, however, found the novel to be “superficial,” claiming that Bridget Jones was simply a vulgar caricature of a helpless, man-obsessed single woman. Many of these same complaints were brought against Fielding's sequel, The Edge of Reason, which received a much cooler critical reception than its predecessor. A growing number of reviewers objected to Bridget's lack of seriousness in the novel, criticizing her perpetual reliance on Darcy to “save” her. Despite these critical objections, Bridget Jones remains a popular feminist icon in Great Britain and The Edge of Reason has become an international best-seller.
Who's Had Who: In Association with Berk's Rogerage: An Historical Rogister Containing Official Lay Lines of History from the Beginning of Time to the Present Day. [with Simon Bell and Richard Curtis] (literary satire) 1987
Cause Celeb (novel) 1994
Bridget Jones's Diary (novel) 1996
Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason (novel) 2000
Bridget Jones's Diary [with Richard Curtis and Andrew Davies] (screenplay) 2001
SOURCE: “Famine in Fashion,” in Times Literary Supplement, No. 4768, August 19, 1994, p. 20.
[In the following review, Walker assesses Fielding's Cause Celeb.]
Helen Fielding is a London-based freelance journalist, who has also produced documentaries for Comic Relief in the Sudan, Ethiopia and Mozambique. In Cause Celeb, her first novel, she has made use of these two sharply different experiences (the dust-jacket emphasizes this in its contrasting photographs of Ethiopian refugees and metropolitan neon signs), with a storyline that runs roughly as follows: jolly, decent, good-looking London girl saves starving refugees in less than a month. The juxtaposition...
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SOURCE: “Some Consolations of the Single State,” in Times Literary Supplement, No. 4883, November 1, 1996, p. 26.
[In the following review, Shulman praises Fielding's ingenuity and humor.]
One of the least attractive developments in the current English press is the proliferation of columns exposing the details of the journalist's emotional and domestic life. Plainly this is the result of pressure brought to bear by editors whose market research has told them that readers, even of otherwise sensible newspapers, must be served with marital bickerings and lack of success in pick-up joints, the terminal illness of friends and all the most delicate bits of the passage...
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SOURCE: “Bridget Jones's Lonely Hearts Club Fans,” in Washington Post, May 18, 1998, pp. D1, D8.
[In the following review, Reid highlights the phenomenal success of Bridget Jones's Diary in the United Kingdom and forecasts that the United States will receive the book with equal enthusiasm.]
On a good day, Bridget Jones weighs no more than 120 pounds, smokes no more than five cigarettes, imbibes no more than three alcohol units, comes up with one or two clever ideas at the office meeting, and checks her voice mail maybe two or three times to see if her boyfriend has phoned.
On a bad day—of which there are many—the statistics are less...
(The entire section is 1072 words.)
SOURCE: “Singular Woman; A Huge Hit in England, Helen Fielding's Bridget Brings Her Angst to America,” in People, Vol. 49, No. 24, June 22, 1998, p. 199.
[In the following interview, Biddle, O'Neill and Fielding discuss the similarities between Bridget Jones and her creator.]
6 P.M. Just returned from interview with Helen Fielding. She's the author of that hit British novel Bridget Jones's Diary, the journal of a neurotic Londoner who's so obsessed with losing weight and quitting smoking and drinking that she records her daily intake. So we're in Fielding's cluttered office on London's Portobello Road, and conversation turns to the gym. I admit I never go....
(The entire section is 695 words.)
SOURCE: “Keeping Up with Ms. Jones,” in Village Voice, June 30, 1998, pp. 157–59.
[In the following review, Daum analyzes the role of popular culture in Bridget Jones's Diary.]
Bridget Jones's Diary, the bestselling British novel just out in the U.S., concerns itself almost entirely with the neurotic fallout of popular women's culture. Its narrator is a victim of women's magazines, self-improvement rituals, and much of the detritus that whirls around the Mars/Venus landscape. In effect, the book spits on the Manolo Blahnik shoes of the whole institution. So it's ironic that the American women's media machine has declared soul sisterhood with Bridget....
(The entire section is 1221 words.)
SOURCE: “Single White Female,” in Harper's Bazaar, No. 3440, July, 1998, p. 62.
[In the following essay, Watson anticipates the American reaction to Bridget Jones's Diary]
The name Bridget Jones may not be familiar in the U.S.—yet—but in Britain she is as famous as the Spice Girls. Three years ago the fictional diary of a single girl became a weekly newspaper column in The Independent, and Bridget Jones was born. Thirty-something, attractive, working in the media and living alone in Notting Hill (London's answer to Manhattan's West Village), she is a regular working girl and, at the same time, the skeleton in the closet of the modern superwoman:...
(The entire section is 575 words.)
SOURCE: “Sighs of a Singleton,” in Washington Post Book World, July 5, 1998, p. 4.
[In the following review, Todd offers words of encouragement to Fielding's character Bridget Jones.]
Dear Bridget: So you're off to the States. It's about time. You've gone as far as you can in England. What started as a newspaper column—the diary of a single 30-something (“singleton”) Londoner—turned into a phenomenon. You've topped the fiction bestseller lists for almost a year [with Bridget Jones's Diary]. Your name's an adjective, verb and noun, all at once. (“That's very Bridget Jones”; “I pulled a Bridget Jones last night”). You're the most popular girl...
(The entire section is 725 words.)
SOURCE: “I Am Woman, Hear Me Whine,” in National Review, Vol. 50, No. 14, August 3, 1998, p. 49.
[In the following review, Vincent unflatteringly describes the character of Bridget Jones as a “feminist.”]
What would Gloria Steinem do if she met Bridget Jones and started chatting with her? Would Miss Steinem blanch, faint, walk away in disgust? That's a meeting I'd like to see, but, alas, it will never happen, because Bridget is fictional.
Bridget Jones's Diary recounts a year in the life of its title character, a goodnatured but discontented middle-class professional whose diary reads like a Judy Blume novel. Bridget is a flake. She's a...
(The entire section is 1122 words.)
SOURCE: “Inside, Outside,” in New Republic, Vol. 219, No. 10, September 7, 1998, pp. 36–41.
[In the following review, Shalit praises Bridget Jones's Diary for its examination of popular culture and the position of single women in contemporary society.]
In the mid-1970s, during the juvenescence of academic feminism, a clutch of socially-minded theorists, poets, and other progressive critics of the canon set out to rectify the “silencing” of the first-person female confessional. Writers such as Kate Millett, Adrienne Rich, and Nancy Mairs argued that female subjectivity, narrativity, and interiority had been devalued and squelched by patriarchy. Whereas...
(The entire section is 4656 words.)
SOURCE: “Up and Down,” in Los Angeles Times Book Review, September 27, 1998, p. 10.
[In the following review, DiMassa compares Bridget Jones's Diary to other significant confessional writings in English literature.]
What's a girl to do? Radicalized in the '60s and '70s, tranquilized by the '80s, she emerges in the '90s the victim of an identity crisis. Time magazine recently identified this crisis, suggesting that “feminism today is wed to the culture of celebrity and self-obsession.” Bridget Jones, the enchanting figment of Helen Fielding's imagination, is a poster child for the confused woman of the 1990s.
It's worse than being a...
(The entire section is 1426 words.)
SOURCE: “Success and the Single Girl,” in New York, Vol. 32, No. 16, April 26, 1999, pp. 32–37.
[In the following review, Bernard focuses on Bridget's relevance to contemporary women.]
At Teddy's Berry Street diner in Williamsburg, Kate Christensen is fighting a hangover. Looking tired and a bit wan, she slips out of her fake-fur coat and orders a Bloody Mary. It turns out she was up until three last night, carousing at a musician friend's dinner party, lingering over a nightcap or two at a Metropolitan Avenue dive. “Usually I drink vodka,” she says. In fact, Christensen is such a connoisseur that she concocts her own. “Ginger vodka, horseradish vodka,”...
(The entire section is 1084 words.)
SOURCE: “Dear Diary … That Would Be Comic Novel Bridget Jones's Diary,” in Kansas City Star, June 10, 1999, p. E1.
[In the following interview, Fielding discusses various aspects of her career.]
5:15 p.m. Even though resolved NOT to imitate Bridget Jones diary entry (like every other journalist), cannot resist. Blimey! Am horribly uncreative. Is Helen Fielding ringing me up at 5:30 my time or 5:30 her time? Never can figure out bloody time differences. Plan to inquire about love life—but will ask at END of interview (v.v. smart, I think). Hope stupid tape recorder works. Aargh.
She's a single career woman living in the city who...
(The entire section is 1026 words.)
SOURCE: A review of Bridget Jones's Diary, in Personnel Psychology, Vol. 52, No. 2, Summer, 1999, pp. 485-89.
[In the following review, Dick notes that Bridget Jones's Diary is a precursor of other contemporary works about single women.]
It is a truth, universally acknowledged, that borrowing the plot of a great classic and loosely applying it in a different context will inevitably result in comparisons being made between the two. It is also usual, in such cases, that the borrower is not the one who benefits from such a comparison.
Bridget Jones's Diary, based very loosely on Jane Austin's Pride and Prejudice, is concerned...
(The entire section is 1296 words.)
SOURCE: “Female Trouble,” in National Review, Vol. 51, No. 13, July 12, 1999, p. 55.
[In the following review, Klinghoffer compares Bridget Jones's Diary to several other contemporary works focusing on single women in their thirties, including Tama Janowitz's A Certain Age and Melissa Bank's A Girls Guide to Hunting and Fishing.]
The other day, in an e-mail to a friend, I mentioned that I was reading a bunch of new novels about unmarried women looking for love in the big city. The books were charming, funny, but sad. It was a simple observation, to which my friend—a normally sweethearted and pacific girl, who happens to be unmarried—replied in an...
(The entire section is 1219 words.)
SOURCE: “Why I Love Bridget Jones,” in New Statesman, Vol. 128, No. 4446, July 26, 1999, p. 51.
[In the following review, Gilbert lauds Bridget Jones's Diary for spawning a new genre of fiction by women writers which is typically comical and lighthearted, and features female protagonists who are obsessed with being thin.]
Helen Fielding has created a contemporary Molly Bloom.
Bridget Jones's Diary by Helen Fielding, is one of the most important novels of the 1990s. Not only has its phenomenal popularity spawned numerous imitations, it has introduced an entirely new fictional voice. Bridget Jones and its imitations—what I...
(The entire section is 770 words.)
SOURCE: “Me and Miss Jones,” in London Observer, November 21, 1999, p. 13.
[In the following review, Merritt praises the universal appeal of Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, but contends that Fielding should abandon the confessional diary genre after this book.]
‘Bridget Jones is … no mere fictional character, she's the Spirit of the Age,’ gushed Melanie McDonagh in the Evening Standard last week, in a piece heralding the arrival of the sequel to Helen Fielding's Bridget Jones's Diary. ‘She's us, all over.’
Well—sorry, but she's not, and lots of us would be appalled by the suggestion. I was 22 when Bridget...
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SOURCE: “What's the Problem?,” in Spectator, Vol. 283, No. 8938, November 27, 1999, p. 52.
[In the following review, de Botton lists eleven generalizations about men and women upon which Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason is based, and contends that Fielding has cleverly situated her humor around dark and tragic human issues.]
Any man reading Helen Fielding's new book [Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason] will laugh but end up feeling wretched. Why are we so awful? Or, as Bridget Jones puts it, such ‘fuckwits’? Bridge is thirtysomething, solvent, attractive and intelligent and yet, despite gargantuan efforts, can't find a husband. All the men she...
(The entire section is 791 words.)
SOURCE: “I Don't Begrudge Helen Fielding Her Success with Bridget Jones. Not At All. No Way. Absolutely Not,” in New Statesman, Vol. 128, November 29, 1999, p. 34.
[In the following review, French discusses the style of humor, dominant themes, and success of Bridget Jones's Diary.]
Ten am. 12st 8lb, alcohol units 0, cigarettes 0, calories 357 (according to the outside of the porridge packet).
Don't worry. This isn't going to be another Bridget Jones parody. More a howl of pain.
I heard Helen Fielding being interviewed on the radio about the Bridget Jones sequel [Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason], and she was...
(The entire section is 785 words.)
SOURCE: A review of Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason in Times Literary Supplement, No. 5044, December 3, 1999.
[In the following review, Potts lauds Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, and asserts that the book touches on contemporary themes such as physical and spiritual self-development and sexual etiquette.]
Bridget Jones, Helen Fielding's comic creation, returns in time for Christmas, unusually good timing for a woman whose punctuality is regularly ridiculed by her boss (“Come on Bridget Droopy-Drawers Late Again!”). Her name has become a synonym for a dizzy, relationship-obsessed thirty-something woman; her diaristic shorthand, totalling...
(The entire section is 513 words.)
SOURCE: “Bridget Creator Finds Fertile Ground in LA,” in Los Angeles Times, February 22, 2000, p. E1.
[In this interview, Fielding and Miller discuss female identity, moving to America, and the continued success of Bridget Jones's Diary.]
For the record, Helen Fielding had zero alcohol units and zero cigarettes at a Sunset Boulevard lunch, during which there was no calorie counting and no boyfriend talk.
In other words, the bestselling novelist is not Bridget Jones incarnate, even if some people do mistakenly call her by her 30-something heroine's name, and despite the fact she has just had a very Bridget-like experience with the roof of her new...
(The entire section is 1285 words.)
SOURCE: “Women on the Verge of a Self-Help Overdose,” in Wall Street Journal, Vol. CCXXXV, Issue 40, February 25, 2000, p. W8.
[In the following review of Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, Lehmann faults Fielding for trying to skirt around the feminist criticism of her work, while at the same time, continuing to portray Jones as “anachronistic” and “antifeminist.”]
In the 1998 bestseller Bridget Jones's Diary, Helen Fielding's fictional protagonist seemed a frazzled but sympathetic urban professional everywoman, cracking wise, courting success and—above all—withstanding the trials of singledom in wild lurches of enervating passion and...
(The entire section is 1180 words.)
SOURCE: A review of Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, in Miami Herald, February 27, 2000, p. 5M.
[In the following review of Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, Ogle compliments Fielding for her creation of Bridget Jones, calling the everywoman character “not only hilarious, but also universal.”]
Number of alcohol units, cigarettes, near nervous breakdowns several thousand (bad); number of boyfriends 1, at least most of the time (good and bad); number of women trying to steal boyfriend 1 (v. bad); number of interviews with Colin Firth (v. good), number of times book provokes hysterical, head shaking, body twitching laughter, too many to count (v. v....
(The entire section is 704 words.)
SOURCE: “The Single Woman's Life Is Good for a Few Laughs,” in Detroit Free Press, February 27, 2000, p. 4E.
[In the following positive review of Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, Sandoval praises Fielding's humorous insights regarding the lives of middle-aged women.]
Number of hopelessly single, self-obsessed, clueless heroines 1, hours spent reading her diary 5, times laughed out loud 22, times wanted to tell heroine to shut up already 12, times reluctantly recognized self or thirtysomething single friends of self in heroine at least 18 (gaaah!). Yep, Bridget Jones is back in action.
If you loved Bridget Jones's Diary, you'll find...
(The entire section is 432 words.)
SOURCE: “‘Singleton’ Adds New Entries to Her Diary,” in Los Angeles Times, March 6, 2000, p. E3.
[In the following review of Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, Rubin commends Fielding's sharp sense of humor, but later refers to Fielding's books as collections of “stand-up comedy routines” rather than novels.]
Bridget Jones's Diary, a comic fictional account of days in the life of a young single woman in London, got its start as a newspaper column. It went on to become a novel, which, in turn, became an international bestseller. Not one to quarrel with success, Bridget's creator, British journalist and novelist Helen Fielding (now living in Los...
(The entire section is 604 words.)
SOURCE: “Pride and Predictability,” in Chicago Tribune, Vol. 153, No. 67, March 7, 2000.
[In the following review of Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, Alessio calls the novel “fun,” but also finds it predictable and filled with stereotypical caricatures.]
Helen Fielding doesn't pay homage to Jane Austen's work; she plunders it. In Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, the thirtysomething British heroine not only becomes further involved with a wealthy man named Mark Darcy but also interviews Colin Firth, the actor who played the character of Mr. Darcy in the BBC mini-series of Pride and Prejudice. As Bridget writes in her diary. “You see...
(The entire section is 905 words.)
SOURCE: “In Courtship, Self-Help Helps Those Who Help Themselves,” in Christian Science Monitor, March 9, 2000, p. 19.
[In the following review of Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, Leach praises the novel as an “endearing” comedy of errors.]
Girl meets boy, falls in love, and lives fabulous, romantic life, whizzing off to ridiculously exotic places where they even eat breakfast by candlelight. You know the scenario.
Only it almost never happens that way. Not in real life, at least. And especially not in the world of Men Who Can't Commit that Bridget Jones inhabits.
The thirtysomething Londoner's road from Singleton to...
(The entire section is 566 words.)
SOURCE: A review of Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, in Philadelphia Inquirer, March 12, 2000, p. K1.
[In the following negative review of Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, Heller criticizes the novel for its “inanity” and lack of plot, while denouncing Fielding for comparing herself to Jane Austen.]
It turns out there are second acts in American life (John Travolta, Jimmy Carter, Las Vegas, hip-huggers) but less likely ones in British publishing. Unless you're an Anthony, Trollope or Powell.
Helen Fielding is not a little Anthony.
She is not a little Jane Austen, either, though Fielding has had the temerity, in...
(The entire section is 763 words.)
SOURCE: “Girl Talk,” in New Statesman, Vol. 129, No. 4491, June 9, 2000, p. 56.
[In the following review of Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, Allardice compliments the novel's “unbeatable comic dialogue,” but wonders if Fielding is trying too hard to repeat the successful formula of Bridget Jones's Diary.]
Poor Bridget Jones has a lot to answer for: a craze for pronounless prose, girlie columns and a scarily skinny American sitcom star. It is little wonder that, by the time of her return in a sequel to the bestselling Diary, the backlash was waiting. One critic (who sounded rather like Bridget's mum) even pointed out that Bridget was far too old now to...
(The entire section is 332 words.)
Arnst, Catherine. “Single Women in a Hostile World.” Business Week, No. 3586 (13 July 1998): 27, 30.
Arnst examines Fielding's portrayal of single women.
Karamcheti, Indira. “Happy Ever After?” Women's Review of Books XVII, No. 10–11 (July 2000): 37.
In this review of Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, Karemcheti compliments aspects of the novel, but questions if Bridget Jones's constant obsession over men and relationships is a sign that the women's liberation movement had no effect on the psyche of modern women.
Kennedy, Helen. “Here's a Woman that Women will...
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