Olivia Joules and the Overactive Imagination–Helen Fielding

olivia joules

About 20 pages into this novel, I was seriously wondering how Helen Fielding became so successful.  Does she have any characters, I wondered, who are not insecure goofball women?  I have now read all but her debut novel (not her articles) and I’m still a bit uncertain.  What I am increasingly persuaded of is that her success says more about us, women readers, than her.  We are all insecure and fear that at any minutes someone will realize that we are goofballs with cellulite on our thighs and fake hair color and one eyebrow more highly plucked than the other thanks to a fit of pique one morning in the mirror.

Olivia Joules gave herself a new name and a new life as a young woman after seeing her parents and sibling run down by a truck in a pedestrian crosswalk at age fourteen.  She is a freelance journalist who has not quite gotten the job done thanks to her overactive imagination.  She has a gift for languages and loves travel.  She revels in the anonymity and blank slate of hotel rooms, as long as the toilet paper is folded into a crisp point upon arrival (but no stickers, please.  That’s too much).  She is sent on a joint assignment to cover the launch of a celebrity-label face cream in Miami and, while there, becomes convinced that she has met Osama bin Laden, or at least a terrorist.  These suspicions are partly confirmed when a floating apartment complex is blown up and circumstances all point to her imagination being on point this time.

Olivia is sexy and fit, but, of course, does not realize it.  She runs every morning, but also downs prodigious amounts of fatty and sweet breakfast foods.  Doesn’t everyone who is fit and beautiful?  The story goes from annoying to entertaining when Olivia’s imagination is, indeed, confirmed to be reality and Fielding leads her on a romp through the fantasy of every woman who has ever wished her boring life would be more like the movies.  She is romanced by an exotic man, then two.  She has wonderful tropical adventures.  She buys spy gear.  She is wooed by MI6 and becomes an actual secret agent and, in the end, saves the world.  She even gets to tell off her former boss in a revenge-fantasy conclusion.

Helen Fielding remains a guilty pleasure and I will watch to see what she does next, but it would be very nice to see her create a character who is not quite to insecure, not quite so ditzy. Maybe that is just not her eye to the world.  We shall see.

Finished 4/24/15


Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy–Helen Fielding

mad about the boy

I am a Bridget Jones fan.  Confession made.

When I saw that Helen Fielding had written a new Bridget Jones book, I was excited.  I had been following gossip that there was to be a new movie, but was not sure if they would bother with the book.  Then I saw the bombshell–that Mr. Darcy has died and Bridget is a widower.

What is Bridget without Mr. Darcy, I thought?  But she sucked me in again.  She has gained weight, lost confidence, gained two children and a nanny/housekeeper.  She does not have to worry about money, apparently, but tries to return to some purpose by writing a screenplay adaptation of Hedda Gabler, which seems appropriate given that Bridget Jones was a modern update of Pride and Prejudice.  Bridget is her usual mess.  She cannot keep her house, or organize her children’s schedules, or dress properly, or maneuver the modern world via Twitter.  She obsesses over her Twitter followers.  When her friends convince her that it is time to date again, she reads a long list of dating self-help books and tweets their lessons.  She wears a silk navy dress over and over and is adorned variously with chocolate, wine, and seagull shit.  She stresses about how much time her children spend in front of screens.  She makes ridiculous rules for screen time that she cannot keep track of.  She joins a program for obese people and cheats until she has an intervention.

Life begins to turn around when she tweet/flirts with Roxster, a twenty-nine-year-old hottie who likes older women because they know what they want.  He is, of course, built with great abs and is fantastic in bed.  Bridget has a moment of guilty over Mark (Mr. Darcy) when she first sleeps with Roxster, but that seems to fade pretty quickly in the hours of fabulous sex they have.  (Does anyone actually have hours of sex?  Like successive hours of sex?)    Everything is wonderful, including a fantasy revenge scene in which Bridget takes Roxster to a party and no one can believe she has snagged such a beautiful man.  It’s Bridget Jones, so any reader knows this cannot last because it is too good.  One of my moments of serious irritation with this book, actually, happened when Bridget was letting Roxster go because, she reflects, “my kids were absolutely without a shadow of a doubt the best thing I had in my life.  I didn’t want to deprive him of doing all that for himself.”  Hello?  He just said he wanted to be a dad to your children.  They’re young.  How is that depriving him?  Once again, only biological parenting has any value.  Infuriating.

Instead she finds an appropriately-aged man who has already fulfilled his biological imperative and is divorced, but not messed up and awful, and whose children meld seamlessly with her own.  Tell me a blended family where that is the case.  Please.  Especially one in which the absent parent is still living.

Daniel makes some cameo appearances, which will make me happy in the movie, as I will be able to see Hugh Grant.  I am curious to see who will play Bridget’s new love interests, but deeply, deeply sad that Mr. Darcy, aka Colin Firth, had to be blown up to make this new volume of Bridget’s life possible.

Great escapes are not to be taken for granted and, while not heavy literature, Mad About the Boy was a great escape, or a return to a great escape, where the slightly overweight slightly frumpy and scattered woman gets the good gorgeous guy in the end and everyone admires her despite her failings.  Bring on round four.

Finished 4/11/15