The iconic #1 bestseller by Helen Fielding; Bridget Jones is now the inspiration for the September 2016 Working Title film release of Bridget Jones's Baby, starring Renee Zellweger, Colin Firth, Patrick Dempsey and Emma Thompson.
Bridget Jones's Diary is the devastatingly self-aware, laugh-out-loud account of a year in the life of a thirty-something Singleton on a permanent doomed quest for self-improvement. Caught between the joys of Singleton fun, and the fear of dying alone and being found three weeks later half eaten by an Alsatian; tortured by Smug Married friends asking, "How's your love life?" with lascivious, yet patronizing leers, Bridget resolves to: reduce the circumference of each thigh by 1.5 inches, visit the gym three times a week not just to buy a sandwich, form a functional relationship with a responsible adult and learn to program the VCR. With a blend of flighty charm, existential gloom, and endearing self-deprecation, Bridget Jones's Diary has touched a raw nerve with millions of readers the world round. Read it and laugh—before you cry, "Bridget Jones is me!"
|Publisher:||Penguin Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||5.05(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.51(d)|
|Age Range:||18 Years|
About the Author
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129 lbs. (but post-Christmas), alcohol units 14 (but effectively covers 2 days as 4 hours of party was on New Year's Day), cigarettes 22, calories 5424.
Food consumed today:
2 pkts Emmenthal cheese slices
14 cold new potatoes
2 Bloody Marys (count as food as contain Worcester sauce and
1/3 Ciabatta loaf with Brie
coriander leaves--1/2 packet
12 Milk Tray (best to get rid of all Christmas confectionery in
13 cocktail sticks securing cheese and pineapple
Portion Una Alconbury's turkey curry, peas and bananas
Portion Una Alconbury's Raspberry Surprise made with
Noon. London: my flat. Ugh. The last thing on earth I feel physically, emotionally or mentally equipped to do is drive to Una and Geoffrey Alconbury's New Year's Day Turkey Curry Buffet in Grafton Underwood. Geoffrey and Una Alconbury are my parents' best friends and, as Uncle Geoffrey never tires of reminding me, have known me since I was running round the lawn with no clothes on. My mother rang up at 8:30 in the morning last August Bank Holiday and forced me to promise to go. She approached it via a cunningly circuitous route.
know, like air hostesses have."
thing. You look like some sort of Mary Poppins person who's fallen on hard times. Just a little compact case with a pull-out handle. It's amazing how much you can get in. Do you want it in navy on red or red on navy?"
I don't want an air-hostess bag."
that's got that super-dooper job at Arthur Andersen ..."
and get you a proper new big suitcase and a set of wheels?"
the missionary luggage-Christmas-gift zeal had stemmed from. When I put the phone back she was saying: "... in actual fact, you can get them with a compartment with bottles for your bubble bath and things. The other thing I thought of was a shopping cart."
blinking in the dazzling Bank Holiday sunlight.
darling," she suddenly hissed, "you will be coming to Geoffrey and Una's New Year's Day Turkey Curry Buffet this year, won't you?"
be doing? "... think I might have to work on New Year's Day."
mention? Malcolm and Elaine Darcy are coming and bringing Mark with them. Do you remember Mark, darling? He's one of those top-notch barristers. Masses of money. Divorced. It doesn't start till eight."
burgeoning from a side-part. "Mum, I've told you. I don't need to be fixed up with ..."
Year buffet since you were running round the lawn with no clothes on! Of course you're going to come. And you'll be able to use your new suitcase."
11:45 p.m. Ugh. First day of New Year has been day of horror. Cannot quite believe I am once again starting the year in a single bed in my parents' house. It is too humiliating at my age. I wonder if they'll smell it if I have a fag out of the window. Having skulked at home all day, hoping hangover would clear, I eventually gave up and set off for the Turkey Curry Buffet far too late. When I got to the Alconburys' and rang their entire-tune-of-town-hall-clock-style doorbell I was still in a strange world of my own--nauseous, vile-headed, acidic. I was also suffering from road-rage residue after inadvertently getting on to the M6 instead of the M1 and having to drive halfway to Birmingham before I could find anywhere to turn round. I was so furious I kept jamming my foot down to the floor on the accelerator pedal to give vent to my feelings, which is very dangerous. I watched resignedly as Una Alconbury's form--intriguingly deformed through the ripply glass door--bore down on me in a fuchsia two-piece.
about to start without you."
banister, wipe her lipstick off my cheek and make me feel incredibly guilty all in one movement, while I leaned against the ornament shelf for support.
shouting, "She got lost, everyone!"
diamond-patterned sweater. He did a jokey Bob Hope step then gave me the sort of hug which Boots would send straight to the police station.
up by the waistband. "Which junction did you come off at?"
added an hour to your journey before you even started. Come on, let's get you a drink. How's your love life, anyway?"
polite question to ask? We wouldn't rush up to them and roar, "How's your marriage going? Still having sex?" Everyone knows that dating in your thirties is not the happy-go-lucky free-for-all it was when you were twenty-two and that the honest answer is more likely to be, "Actually, last night my married lover appeared wearing suspenders and a darling little Angora crop-top, told me he was gay/a sex addict/a narcotic addict/a commitment phobic and beat me up with a dildo," than, "Super, thanks."
Geoffrey, "Fine," at which point he boomed, "So you still haven't got a feller!"
girls! I don't know! Can't put it off forever, you know. Tick-tock-tick-tock."
married?" roared Brian Enderby (married to Mavis, used to be president of the Rotary in Kettering), waving his sherry in the air. Fortunately my dad rescued me.
"Your mother has the entire Northamptonshire constabulary poised to comb the county with toothbrushes for your dismembered remains. Come and demonstrate your presence so I can start enjoying myself. How's the be-wheeled suitcase?"
hadn't turned up, but Mark Darcy ... Yuk. Every time my mother's rung up for weeks it's been, "Of course you remember the Darcys, darling. They came over when we were living in Buckingham and you and Mark played in the paddling pool!" or, "Oh! Did I mention Malcolm and Elaine are bringing Mark with them to Una's New Year's Day Turkey Curry Buffet? He's just back from America, apparently. Divorced. He's looking for a house in Holland Park. Apparently he had the most terrible time with his wife. Japanese. Very cruel race."
darling? Malcolm and Elaine's son? He's one of these super-dooper top-notch lawyers. Divorced. Elaine says he works all the time and he's terribly lonely. I think he might be coming to Una's New Year's Day Turkey Curry Buffet, actually."
do shag Mark Darcy over the turkey curry, won't you? He's very rich."
had time to get a drink down me. Being set up with a man against your will is one level of humiliation, but being literally dragged into it by Una Alconbury while caring for an acidic hangover, watched by an entire roomful of friends of your parents, is on another plane altogether.
his back to the room, scrutinizing the contents of the Alconburys' bookshelves: mainly leather-bound series of books about the Third Reich, which Geoffrey sends off for from Reader's Digest. It struck me as pretty ridiculous to be called Mr. Darcy and to stand on your own looking snooty at a party. It's like being called Heathcliff and insisting on spending the entire evening in the garden, shouting "Cathy" and banging your head against a tree.
got someone nice for you to meet."
harmless navy sweater was actually a V-neck diamond-patterned in shades of yellow and blue--as favored by the more elderly of the nation's sports reporters. As my friend Tom often remarks, it's amazing how much time and money can be saved in the world of dating by close attention to detail. A white sock here, a pair of red braces there, a gray slip-on shoe, a swastika, are as often as not all one needs to tell you there's no point writing down phone numbers and forking out for expensive lunches because it's never going to be a runner.
all pink and fluttery. "Bridget works in publishing, don't you, Bridget?"
Capital radio phone-in and was about to ask Una if I could "say hello" to my friends Jude, Sharon and Tom, my brother Jamie, everyone in the office, my mum and dad, and last of all all the people at the Turkey Curry Buffet.
"Durr! I expect you're sick to death of us old fuddy-duddies."
attempt at a smile, at which Una, after rolling her eyes, putting a hand to her bosom and giving a gay tinkling laugh, abandoned us with a toss of her head to a hideous silence.
lately?" he said.
book. The trouble with working in publishing is that reading in your spare time is a bit like being a dustman and snuffling through the pig bin in the evening. I'm halfway through Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus, which Jude lent me, but I didn't think Mark Darcy, though clearly odd, was ready to accept himself as a Martian quite yet. Then I had a brainwave.
haven't exactly read it as such, but feel I have as Sharon has been ranting about it so much. Anyway, completely safe option as no way diamond-pattern-jumpered goody-goody would have read five-hundred-page feminist treatise.
you find there was rather a lot of special pleading?"
a way to get off the subject. "Have you been staying with your parents over New Year?"
actually." I gabbed nervously so that Una and Mum wouldn't think I was so useless with men I was failing to talk to even Mark Darcy. "But then I do think New Year's resolutions can't technically be expected to begin on New Year's Day, don't you? Since, because it's an extension of New Year's Eve, smokers are already on a smoking roll and cannot be expected to stop abruptly on the stroke of midnight with so much nicotine in the system. Also dieting on New Year's Day isn't a good idea as you can't eat rationally but really need to be free to consume whatever is necessary, moment by moment, in order to ease your hangover. I think it would be much more sensible if resolutions began generally on January the second."
bolted off toward the buffet, leaving me standing on my own by the bookshelf while everybody stared at me, thinking, "So that's why Bridget isn't married. She repulses men."
that. They kept making me walk round with trays of gherkins and glasses of cream sherry in a desperate bid to throw me into Mark Darcy's path yet again. In the end they were so crazed with frustration that the second I got within four feet of him with the gherkins Una threw herself across the room like Will Carling and said, "Mark, you must take Bridget's telephone number before you go, then you can get in touch when you're in London."
up my neck. Now Mark would think I'd put her up to it.
Mrs. Alconbury," he said. Humph. It's not that I wanted him to take my phone number or anything, but I didn't want him to make it perfectly obvious to everyone that he didn't want to. As I looked down I saw that he was wearing white socks with a yellow bumblebee motif
genuine reason for coming over, which was quite definitely gherkin-based rather than phone-number-related.
marched him over toward me and stood just behind while he said stiffly, "Do you need driving back to London? I'm staying here but I could get my car to take you."
my trains in the morning."
2 a.m. Oh, why am I so unattractive? Why? Even a man who wears bumblebee socks thinks I am horrible. Hate the New Year. Hate everyone. Except Daniel Cleaver. Anyway, have got giant tray-sized bar of Cadbury's Dairy Milk left over from Christmas on dressing table, also amusing joke gin and tonic miniature. Am going to consume them and have fag.
130 lbs. (terrifying slide into obesity--why? why?), alcohol units 6 (excellent), cigarettes 23 (v.g.), calories 2472.
9 a.m. Ugh. Cannot face thought of going to work. Only thing which makes it tolerable is thought of seeing Daniel again, but even that is inadvisable since am fat, have spot on chin, and desire only to sit on cushion eating chocolate and watching Xmas specials. It seems wrong and unfair that Christmas, with its stressful and unmanageable financial and emotional challenges, should first be forced upon one wholly against one's will, then rudely snatched away just when one is starting to get into it. Was really beginning to enjoy the feeling that normal service was suspended and it was OK to lie in bed as long as you want, put anything you fancy into your mouth, and drink alcohol whenever it should chance to pass your way, even in the mornings. Now suddenly we are all supposed to snap into self-discipline like lean teenage greyhounds.
10 p.m. Ugh. Perpetua, slightly senior and therefore thinking she is in charge of me, was at her most obnoxious and bossy, going on and on to the point of utter boredom about latest half-million-pound property she is planning to buy with her rich-but-overbred boyfriend, Hugo: "Yars, yars, well it is north-facing but they've done something frightfully clever with the light."
tight red skirt with a bizarre three-quarter-length striped waistcoat strapped across it. What a blessing to be born with such Sloaney arrogance. Perpetua could be the size of a Renault Espace and not give it a thought. How many hours, months, years, have I spent worrying about weight while Perpetua has been happily looking for lamps with porcelain cats as bases around the Fulham Road? She is missing out on a source of happiness, anyway. It is proved by surveys that happiness does not come from love, wealth or power but the pursuit of attainable goals: and what is a diet if not that?
chocolate tree decorations and a 3.69 [pounds sterling] bottle of sparkling wine from Norway, Pakistan or similar. I guzzled them by the light of the Christmas tree, together with a couple of mince pies, the last of the Christmas cake and some Stilton, while watching Eastenders, imagining it was a Christmas special.
fat splurging out from my body. Never mind. Sometimes you have to sink to a nadir of toxic fat envelopment in order to emerge, phoenix-like, from the chemical wasteland as a purged and beautiful Michelle Pfeiffer figure. Tomorrow new Spartan health and beauty regime will begin.
being v. successful and clever. He was being v. funny today, telling everyone about his aunt thinking the onyx kitchen-roll holder his mother had given her for Christmas was a model of a penis. Was really v. amusing about it. Also asked me if I got anything nice for Christmas in rather flirty way. Think might wear short black skirt tomorrow.
131 lbs. (state of emergency now as if fat has been stored in capsule form over Christmas and is being slowly released under skin), alcohol units 5 (better), cigarettes 20, calories 700 (v.g.).
4 p.m. Office. State of emergency. Jude just rang up from her portable phone in flood of tears, and eventually managed to explain, in a sheep's voice, that she had just had to excuse herself from a board meeting (Jude is Head of Futures at Brightlings) as she was about to burst into tears and was now trapped in the ladies' with Alice Cooper eyes and no makeup bag. Her boyfriend, Vile Richard (self-indulgent commitment phobic), whom she has been seeing on and off for eighteen months, had chucked her for asking him if he wanted to come on holiday with her. Typical, but Jude naturally was blaming it all on herself.
rather than need. Oh, if only I could turn back the clock."
scheduled for 6:30 in Cafe Rouge. I hope I can get away without bloody Perpetua kicking up.
11 p.m. Strident evening. Sharon immediately launched into her theory on the Richard situation: "Emotional fuckwittage," which is spreading like wildfire among men over thirty. As women glide from their twenties to thirties, Shazzer argues, the balance of power subtly shifts. Even the most outrageous minxes lose their nerve, wrestling with the first twinges of existential angst: fears of dying alone and being found three weeks later half-eaten by an Alsatian. Stereotypical notions of shelves, spinning wheels and sexual scrapheaps conspire to make you feel stupid, no matter how much time you spend thinking about Goldie Hawn and Susan Sarandon.
armor to wriggle out of commitment, maturity, honor and the natural progression of things between a man and a woman."
of our mouths and sinking down into our coats. After all, there is nothing so unattractive to a man as strident feminism.
holiday with him?" yelled Sharon. "What is he talking about?"
are like Richard. At which point Sharon started on a long illustrative list of emotional fuckwittage in progress in our friends: one whose boyfriend of thirteen years refuses even to discuss living together; another who went out with a man four times who then chucked her because it was getting too serious; another who was pursued by a bloke for three months with impassioned proposals of marriage, only to find him ducking out three weeks after she succumbed and repeating the whole process with her best friend.
daring to refuse to compromise in love and relying on our own economic power. In twenty years' time men won't even dare start with fuckwittage because we will just laugh in their faces," bellowed Sharon.
in with a stunning blonde who was about eight times as attractive as him. He ambled over to us to say hi.
we're just sleeping together. I ought to stop it really, but, well ...," he said, smugly.
schmuck. Right. I'm going to talk to that woman," said Sharon, getting up. Jude and I forcibly restrained her while Alex, looking panic-stricken, rushed back, to continue his fuckwittage unrumbled.
stop beating herself over the head with Women Who Love Too Much and instead think more toward Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus, which will help her to see Richard's behavior less as a sign that she is codependent and loving too much and more in the light of him being like a Martian rubber band which needs to stretch away in order to come back.
gym and see her personal shopper before work starts at 8:30 (mad)--Sharon and I suddenly were filled with remorse and self-loathing for not advising Jude simply to get rid of Vile Richard because he is vile. But then, as Sharon pointed out, last time we did that they got back together and she told him everything we'd said in a fit of reconciliatory confession and now it is cripplingly embarrassing every time we see him and he thinks we are the Bitch Queens from Hell--which, as Jude points out, is a misapprehension because, although we have discovered our Inner Bitches, we have not yet unlocked them.
What People are Saying About This
“Bridget Jones is channeling something so universal and (horrifyingly) familiar that readers will giggle and sigh with collective delight.”
“Fielding . . . has rummaged all too knowingly through the bedrooms, closets, hearts, and minds of women everywhere.”
“Hilarious and poignant.”
—The Washington Post
“Bridget Jones’s diary has made her the best friend of hundreds of thousands of women.”
—The New York Times
“A brilliant comic creation. Even men will laugh.”
Reading Group Guide
Single, thirty-something career woman Bridget Jones has taken the best-seller lists by storm—much to her creator's surprise—and entered the English language and psyche. As Newsweek put it, "Ally McBeal better watch her scrawny little back—Bridget Jones is coming to America." Too thin and upwardly mobile, Ally nevertheless shares with Bridget an obsessive, slightly paranoid preoccupation with her love life (or lack thereof), which proves the point: Bridget lives in all of us. She is every woman who has ever looked in the mirror and groaned, resolved to Do Something About It (whether via gym membership, slashing caloric intake, or marshaling Inner Resources), and kicked off the new program in a fattening or embarrassingly public manner.
As Helen Fielding puts it for this Guide, "Bridget's battling with two different ideas. One is the image of the Cosmo Girl, that she should be living this great, independent life full of friends and glamorous dinner parties. The second is the old fashioned idea of failure: that if you're not married by thirty, you'll die alone and be found three weeks later half-eaten by an Alsatian."
So what'll it be: tragic, barren spinsterhood, or relegation to the dull, diaper-and-coordinated-pasta-container-filled realm of the Smug Marrieds?
Take the following quiz to see where you fit on the Bridget-O-Meter. Have you ever:
- realized cellulite is creation of fiendish, misogynist extraterrestrial force in grips of which female earthlings are helpless (or entertained similar, late-night theory)
[ ] NEVER [ ] OCCASIONALLY [ ] FREQUENTLY
- not heard doorbell rung by attractive man owing to proximity of industrial-strength hairdryer to ear?
[ ] NEVER [ ] OCCASIONALLY [ ] FREQUENTLY
- had genuine concern about whereabouts of missing friend tempered by gratification at possessing perfect outfit for funeral?
[ ] NEVER [ ] OCCASIONALLY [ ] FREQUENTLY
- calculated likelihood of dying alone, in bad underwear
[ ] NEVER [ ] OCCASIONALLY [ ] FREQUENTLY
- found more than four pairs of black pantyhose—each unwearable for a different reason—in drawer at any one time?
[ ] NEVER [ ] OCCASIONALLY [ ] FREQUENTLY
- served guests food of a color not existing in nature? (Add five points if color is blue; one point per half-hour period between 8:30 and the hour at which dinner typically materializes; two points if consistently tempted to impress guests with food cannot pronounce.)
[ ] NEVER [ ] OCCASIONALLY [ ] FREQUENTLY
- checked phone messages more than six times an hour in any four-day period following initial sexual encounter?
[ ] NEVER [ ] OCCASIONALLY [ ] FREQUENTLY
- been late to first day on job because of two+ hours spent on optimum hair/make-up/outfit combo? (Add one point if ensemble still turned out to be dead wrong. Add two points if punctuality continues to prove elusive.)
[ ] NEVER [ ] OCCASIONALLY [ ] FREQUENTLY
Each "never" answer is worth one point; each "occasionally" worth two points; each "frequently" worth three points. If you score over 25, you may be Bridget—unlike Helen Fielding, who says firmly, "No, I'm not Bridget. I don't smoke or drink, and I'm a virgin." Nonetheless, her hilarious account of the miseries and triumphs of one very modern woman makes Fielding a spokesperson for all of us.
"Bridget Jones is channeling something so universal and (horrifyingly) familiar that readers will giggle and sigh with collective delight."
"Hilarious but poignant."
—The Washington Post
"Bridget's voice is dead-on . . . will cause readers to drop the book, grope frantically for the phone, and read it out loud to their best girlfriends."
—The Philadelphia Inquirer
"This juicy diary tells the truth with a verve as appealing to men on Mars as it is to Venusian women. A."
"Newspaper columnist Fielding's first effort, a bestseller in Britain, lives up to the hype: This year in the life of a single women is closely observed and laugh-out-loud funny . . . Fielding's diarist raises prickly insecurities to an art form, turns bad men into good anecdotes, and shows that it is possible to have both a keen eye for irony and a generous heart."
"Even men will laugh."
"Good-bye Rules Girls, hello Singletons . . . Endearingly engaging."
—The New York Times Book Review
"Fielding . . . has rummaged all too knowingly through the bedrooms, closets, hearts and minds of women everywhere."
ABOUT HELEN FIELDING
Helen Fielding was born in an industrial town in the north of England, studied at Oxford University, and went on to work in television at the BBC. Her first novel, Cause Celeb, was based on her experience while filming documentaries in Africa for Comic Relief. She now lives in London, after a spell as a newspaper journalist, and is hard at work on the sequel to Bridget Jones's Diary. She is also working on the screenplay for the book, which is being made into a feature film by the producers of Four Weddings and a Funeral. Surely you know better than to ask whether she's married.
A CONVERSATION WITH HELEN FIELDING
Did anything in particular strike you about the reaction of American readers?
I was very surprised that the book took off in America. Before I left, there was an open letter in the paper saying "Don't go there, they won't get it, Americans don't understand irony and self-deprecation." There's a strong culture of self-improvement in America, which is both good and bad. The idea of getting up at five and whizzing from the gym to the board meeting, of getting your bottom down to size and suddenly deciding your soul needs work. I think it's rather a joyless way of being for women, but it seems to have infected us on a global scale. I think that's what people latched on to most.
Why did you write Bridget as a diary?
The best advice I ever had about writing was to do it as if you were writing for a friend. The diary form's very good for that, very direct and intimate. Because it's an imaginary character, you can hide behind a persona. It also allows you to write the sort of shameful thoughts that everyone has but no one wants to admit to, since you're not trying to make anyone like you. A diary is an outlet for your most private thoughts, a very personal way of writing. And that feeling of peeping behind a curtain at someone's else's life is good for a reader.
Will the sequel also be in diary form?
What percentage of your readership do you think is male?
I have no idea, but I do know that there seem to more male readers now. I think lots of people have been given it by their girlfriends, who say, "If you want to understand how women's minds work, read this." When I was writing the column, many men wrote in who thought Bridget was real. One wrote a letter to the editor which read: "Dear Sir, I would quite like to shag Bridget Jones. Could you please let me have her phone number? Many thanks. Yours faithfully." It was quite formal.
Have men actually learned from it?
Smug Marrieds have, because nobody asks me whether I'm married any more. And no more patronizing comments from my married friends; their attitudes really have changed. It sounds rude to go to a Smug Married and say, "How's your marriage going, still having sex?", but not to go up to a Singleton and say, "How's your love life?" It's great if people realize that there isn't just one way to live. That's an old-fashioned concept, and I think it's losing its grip on us. Life in cities is very similar all over the world, and people do tend to live in urban families as much as in nuclear ones. They're not worse off or better off; the point is that it's no longer abnormal to be single.
One of the pleasures of reading Bridget is the vocabulary you invented. Do you have a favorite word or phrase?
I'm very pleased about the word "singleton," which of course wasn't my word. A friend made it up for a party: "singleton's in one hotel, marrieds in another!" "Spinster" is horrible, with connotations of spinning wheels failure. "Singleton's" a good word, and it applies to both men and women
Any new coinages?
Yes, "mentionitis." It's that thing where you can tell someone has a crush on someone because their name keeps coming up in the conversation, completely irrelevantly.
In the event that Bridget joins the ranks of the Marrieds, what aspects of matrimony would you like to tackle?
I'm not sure whether she'll do that, but it's an interesting area. I'm going to look at the reason why men and women do find it difficult to be together, as roles change. Jane Austen was also writing about dating, but in her day the rules were very clear, whereas now it's a quagmire of bluff and counterbluff. Everyone's so busy playing it cool, discussing the next maneuver with their friends, it a miracle that people manage to get together at all.
Is smugness an inevitable component of married life?
No, not at all. I just think that it's very easy for one group of people to decide that their way of living is the right way, and it's always a mistake for people to do that. No one ever knows what's around the corner.
A review in Entertainment Weekly described the book as "subversive." Was that your intent?
I'd use ironic rather than subversive. You can't really explain irony, either. Either you think it's funny or you don't. One of may favorite parts of the book is when Bridget declares, "There's nothing quite so unattractive to a man as a strident feminist."
Would you call Bridget a heroine or an anti-heroine?
I think Bridget's an ironic heroine.
How strong is the link is between economic self-sufficiency and emotional well-being for women?
Austen did say the only thing that renders a single women pitiable is poverty, in Emma, I think. Now it's no longer necessary to be married in order to be well off. I think it has to do with others' perceptions. People who feel sorry for single women tend to feel less so if the women are wealthy, but of course that doesn't mean the women are happier. I just think it's a good idea not to be bigoted.
Do you think women's aspirations have changed substantially in the last few decades?
Yes, things have changed hugely. Roles have shifted enormously, in terms of economic power for one thing. In relation to Bridget, the book is really about trying too hard, trying to be too perfect, and sort of missing the point that what makes Bridget appealing is that she's fun, she's nice, she's a good friend. She's just normal and that's fine. We sometimes lose sight of that alongside the qualities of having it all: a job, a briefcase, a bottom like two snooker balls.
How do you feel about the reviews which felt the book was an "insult to feminism"?
I can quite see that if you're not keen on irony as a form of expression, the book might get on your nerves. It was initially written to make people laugh. If it raises some issues that strike a nerve, so much the better. Novels are there to reflect the truth in what they see, as well as to entertain.
Can feminism encompass comic heroines?
There are so many male comic heroes. Take Bertie Wooster, from P. G. Wodehouse—we don't take him as a symbol as a state of manhood. We've got to be able to have comic heroines without being so terribly anxious about what it says. We're not equal if we're not allowed to laugh at ourselves.. Maybe it's to do with confidence, since being able to laugh at yourself is a mark of it.
The book is dedicated to your mum, "for not being like Bridget's." What piece of advice might you give to mothers around the world?
I think when your daughter says, "I have to go now, Mum," not to bring up seventeen irrelevant things. The only thing I sometimes pinch off my mum is her turn of phrase. She did say to the [condescending] tax man, "Listen can you make good brioche?"—Ashton Applewhite