When I thought about what to write for International Chicklit Month I kept being drawn to Helen Fielding’s less famous creation, International Woman of Mystery: Olivia Joules. She sticks in my mind. It must have been slightly terrifying to follow up Bridget Jones, but it must also have been so much fun to write about this beauty-journalist-turned-master-spy who jets around the world after a man she either a) quite fancies or b) is Osama Bin Laden. It’s a ballsy, tricky premise that quickly turns the absurd into the hysterically funny and while the book requires a lack of political correctness on your part at times (and understandably took a dive in post 9-11 America) what I love about it, and what I love about Olivia, is how different she is from the standard chicklit heroine that defined the genre. Don’t get me wrong, I love a pink cover and a happy ending as much as the next girl but this is adventure, satire and political comedy wrapped around a woman who doesn’t make romantic mistakes but instead causes international incidents. Olivia is no lonely Bridget Jones, wanting to be thin and get into bed with Hugh Grant, in fact ‘over time, she had painstakingly erased all womanly urges to question her shape, looks, role in life, or effect upon other people’ which sounds like a kick in the ass for Bridget. Most of all I love her Rules for Living because some of these have stuck with me all this time, especially: 2) No one is thinking about you. They’re thinking about themselves, just like you. But also more simply: 9) Be honest and kind. They are good rules – 15 in all – and worth laminating. But just in case you haven’t read the book and are put off because you think it might be all guns and jets and espionage and Lara Croft style utilitarian clothing then take strength from rule 10) Only buy clothes that make you feel like doing a small dance. Olivia Joules in an International chicklit heroine of our times and I for one wish she would come back.
Alison Lucy is the author of THE SUMMER OF SECRETS, which is out now.
You can visit Alison’s website here