Classics Revisited

Two classic chick lit novels – Bridget Jones’s Diary and The Devil Wears Prada – are set for a new chapter this year.

Helen Fielding has penned a third novel about the world’s most famous singleton Bridget Jones in an as-yet untitled novel, due out in October. All we have been told is: “Set in contemporary London, the new novel brings us Bridget in a new phase of life.” Will it follow the newspaper columns that continued the story after the sequel, Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, which had our heroine becoming a mother … or will it ignore those events and bring us a middle-aged Bridget, still torn between Daniel and Mark, and writing about her angst in a blog, rather than in a diary.

Meanwhile in June, Lauren Weisberger revisits her characters in Revenge Wears Prada: The Devil Returns. In the sequel, almost a decade down the track, Andy has teamed up with Emily to produce a bridal magazine, and is organising her own society wedding. But Andy’s about to run into her former boss Miranda again.

As we wait to find out where these beloved characters take us next, we ask some authors and readers about the impact these women have had on them (the longer responses have been credited).

WHAT HAS BRIDGET JONES TAUGHT ME?

Never wear granny pants

Bridget Jones’s Diary taught me that Jane Austen plots never fail to please, no matter how they are reinterpreted. Also, love is worth risking second chances.

Sometimes love is right under your nose, if only you look. And, the guy who appears to be a bastard usually is a bastard and the nice guy is probably a nice guy so choose wisely.

Weighing yourself every day leads to depression.

Even the chunky girl can get the guy! 🙂

Bridget Jones taught me that being imperfect makes us fabulously gorgeous.

At one stage of my life I could relate to Bridget Jones to an alarming degree. Bridget Jones taught me success is often an act of confidence and there is life after being a “singleton” – keep the faith! bridgetjones

The best way to win a man’s heart is to cook him blue soup!

It’s okay to sing in your slippers and dressing gown.

Don’t write off the man in the horrible reindeer sweater. He may be a kind and cute human rights lawyer who will love you just the way you are.

Reading both books long before the story hit the big screen, Helen Fielding’s diary writing style highlighted the fun in approaching story-telling from a new perspective. Talking to ourselves is something most of us indulge in but few of us admit, yet it became the basis for the success of the hilarious Bridget. Lesson for me (and other writers too I’m sure) – moving away from convention is stylistic and refreshing and often a ground-breaker for success.
Breaking away from the norm and focusing on Bridget’s imperfections made a refreshing change from characters with the perfect figure, perfect life and of course a line of perfect partners waiting in the wings. The explosion of Bridget Jones, however, suddenly made it acceptable to wear big knickers, be overweight, struggle with yo-yo dieting and fancy the guy next door with the Christmas Jumper! Both Bridget Jones books were gathering dust on my shelf when the movies took the cinemas by storm, their hilarious content a major hit, not to mention the brilliant accompanying music. It’s Raining Men will always take me back to the scene where the restaurant brawl extends on to the street!
What Bridget Jones has taught me as a writer is the magic of powerful characterisation. As a reader, she has taught me the value of accepting myself for who I am, faults and all, not to mention the liberating feeling to be able to laugh at myself.
Helen Fielding tapped into reality, took a chance by shining the spotlight on a very ordinary girl and in doing so captured the hearts and attention of all. I’m convinced there’s a little piece of Bridget Jones in all of us!
Mary Malone, Ireland
www.marymalone.ie

What I learned from Bridget Jones’s Diary was to always remember that a loyal, trustworthy man is worth a heck of a lot more than some good-looking schlep. I also think it taught me that my body isn’t beautiful, it isn’t perfect, but it’s mine! I need to learn to embrace my curves, and love myself. Glory to the curvy girls, for they shall rule the world!
Melody Simons, United States
http://www.lilmommareader.blogspot.com

The image that first comes to my mind when someone brings up Bridget Jones is her furious working out, her self image, her adorably befuddled life. To many, the love story of Bridget Jones is not about her finding true love, but really, her finding herself. The first time that I came across Bridget was post break-up. I was looking for something to pick me up off the ground, something to relate to. Bridget is a heroine. She eats ice-cream then tries like mad to work it off. She is sad, she is angry, she is hopeful. When I think of what Bridget’s wisdom, her brave heart and her quotable guidance did for me during the time, I am grateful. I think the most famous quote from the book is, “It is a truth universally acknowledged that when one part of your life starts going okay, another falls spectacularly to pieces.” Haven’t we all felt that way at one time or another? I remember thinking when I read that that I had finally found the right guy (who turned out to be the wrong one, isn’t that the way?) and the perfect job and had the perfect friends only to be dumped out of left field. There had been no warning and I just remember putting the novel down, thinking about it and thinking that “Bridget got it. She knows this, she knows what I’m going through.” There were so many things about Bridget I could relate to. The sob fests. The unhopeful desperation and questions of would I ever find that perfect guy? Would I ever be happy again? The twenty pounds she so desperately wants to lose, the hate of Valentine’s Day, the “I’ll just eat this piece of chocolate and start my diet tomorrow” way of thinking. The truth is, Bridget eventually does find love. She finds a wonderful man who loves her and appreciates her, but not until she’s kissed a few frogs. She falls for the bad guy, the one who won’t commit (and most of us have been there!) and then realizes her mistake. However, the true romance of Bridget Jones is not that she falls in love with this wonderful guy, but that she falls in love with herself. She is surrounded by lovely friends and family and eventually, the man of her dreams, but the important part of her story is not the happily-ever-after relationship with the man, but with herself. She learns that yes, she is quirky, yes she has made some mistakes, she has at times made a fool of herself, but she dusts herself off, picks herself up, and tries again. She learns that it’s okay to be a few pounds over that goal weight, that it’s okay to have fallen for the bad guy and learned a lesson, that it’s okay to fall flat on your face as long as you pick yourself back up again. Because of Bridget’s wisdom, her zest for life, her lessons learned, her funny times shared, I was able to get out of bed, stop shoving ice-cream in my mouth, turn off the sad love songs, and try again. The best part of Bridget Jones is the quote, “One must not live one’s life through men but must be complete on oneself as a woman of substance” because in the end, that’s what it’s about. It’s about being happy with who you are and what you have. It’s about accepting and loving yourself, chocolate cake eating and all. I’ve learned a lot from Bridget and when I’m feeling sorry for myself in a situation, whether it’s love or the job or just need a pick-me-up, I remind myself that happiness is in me, I just have to love myself first and accept myself for who I am. And a piece of delicious chocolate doesn’t hurt either! 🙂
Jennifer Pilato, United States

Wow, like so many people I felt that Bridget Jones was me – I had that diary! I think it showed the world that inside of most (maybe all) of us there was an insecure, vulnerable person who felt like a loser much of the time, who was often lonely despite great friends, who was absurdly flattered by attention from the most blatantly insincere rotters (why are they always so damn attractive!) The real lesson for me was give yourself a break and don’t waste time fretting about the mythical perfect person you feel you ought to be. When you step away from yourself, it’s all hysterically funny really. Oh yes, and you’ll start to appreciate nice men, instead of dismissing them as ‘friend material’ when you grow up a bit and realise you deserve better.
Pam Burks (one half of Ellie Campbell), England
www.facebook.com/EllieCampbellbooks

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WHAT LESSON DID YOU LEARN FROM THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA?

Be careful what you wish for. And if you surround yourself with self-centred egomaniacs it’s pretty easy to become one.

Never work for Anna Wintour.

It taught me how to talk like I’m an urban city girl…and that Jimmy Choos rock.

I was reminded that people who are stuck-up and horrible on the outside, are just as gooey on the inside.

Never sacrifice friends/family for work. And that I will never work in the fashion industry (unruly hair!).

Prada and a Prado are two very different things!

There is more to life than shoes and handbags.

Well, I have had some strong female bosses and so I could definitely relate! I do know that while women at the top can be moody (can’t we all!), tough (they’ve had to trample over more than a few sensitive feelings, including their own) and yes, some can be terrifying and outright bitches, they can often understand and support your ambition instead of flirting and patronizing you like many men. And as Devil Wears Prada revealed so brilliantly inside even the worst harpy may lie a vulnerable side she daren’t show at work. The main message I got though was how easy it is to forget your true values in the presence of your peers and the pressure that society (especially work) puts on you to conform. And it’s not worth losing yourself and your enjoyment of life even for a big pay check – or in this case status and a lot of nice clothes. Modern work ethics expects us all to be workaholics but there is more to life than blind ambition.
Lorraine Campbell (one half of Ellie Campbell), United States
www.facebook.com/EllieCampbellbooks

0-devil

I hate Miranda! There I said it. But what makes The Devil Wears Prada incredible chick lit is that, while I hate her, I totally “get” her. She is an incredibly passionate woman, and while she may not share my passion, every girl needs to discover the “stuff” (yes, I said stuff) that makes her heart pitter patter at a quickened pace. I am not a fashionista, nor will I ever be, but I absolutely love the way Lauren Weisberger gives us little people a glimpse into the upscale world of highbrow fashion and reminds us that people are the same no matter what label is sewn to their collar. I enjoy seeing Andrea battle with who she thinks she is, who she is becoming, and what she will turn out to be if she continues down the path she has chosen. I cannot wait to get my unmanicured paws on the sequel!
Jamie Anne Richardson, United States
www.jamieannerichardson.com

Sheryl Sandberg tells us ladies to lean in, however, one of the things The Devil Wears Prada teaches us is what can happen if we do – we become Miranda. Okay, not all of us. Some of us might end up like Andrea. While the possibility would definitely result in a better-dressed world, it would also lead to a great deal of personal sacrifice, proving that maybe we really can’t have it all. It’s not a pretty reality but it’s something we must all be mindful of as we ask ourselves, what are we willing to pay for ambition? Or when in doubt, W.W.O.D, What Would Oprah Do?
Ali Berlinski, NYC/Spain
aliberlinski.com

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One Response to Classics Revisited

  1. Jean Oram says:

    I’m so pumped for another Bridget Jones’s Diary! Loooooved that book. (Both of ’em!)

    I learned that chick lit can make me laugh myself silly. Oh man! The shenanigans. I was just cleaning out the basement today and got rid of all my VHSs and DVDs except Bridget Jones’s Diary. Really? Am I keeping my VCR & DVD players just for this zany character? Yep. (Oh dear.) But like Mary said above, the Raining Men scene among many (okay, all) others means I can’t give it up. I have to have my Bridget fix at my disposal.

    And interestingly, I didn’t realize until recently how much these Fielding novels influenced me as well as other great chick lit authors. I’ve been interviewing 5 chick lit authors on my blog in celebration of International Chick Lit Month and–Wow!–major theme in influence is Bridget! How cool is it that one book can revolutionize and cause so many of us to fall in love with the genre?

    🙂 Happy International Chick Lit Month!

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