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Monday, June 1, 1998 Published at 11:33 GMT 12:33 UK


Monday: Diary published in America. Am rich and famous (vg)

Bridget Jones, the fictional thirtysomething singleton who has become one of the publishing sensations of the decade in Britain, is making the difficult transition across the Atlantic.

But the big question is will Helen Fielding's novel speak to American women the same way it has hit a nerve with their British counterparts?

The book has been a phenomenal success in Britain, selling more than a million copies in under two years, and a sequel is in the offing.

Now American readers get the opportunity to find out what all the fuss is about.

[ image: Essential reading for thirtysomething women]
Essential reading for thirtysomething women
But will the joke carry across the Atlantic ?

Helen Fielding, the Yorkshire-born author, began writing Bridget Jones's Diary as a column in The Independent, which was then converted into the novel in 1996.

Bridget, a single woman, living in London, is wracked by self-doubt and over-consumption.

Hectic work schedule

The diary takes us through a year in her hectic work schedule and her equally chaotic social and family commitments as she embarks on a disastrous quest for self-improvement.

Bridget fights in vain to control her weight and her drinking, desperately tries to give up smoking and finds comfort in everything from doughnuts to lottery scratchcards.

'Smug married friends'

She feels herself pressured by her family and friends who are all "smug marrieds".

They insist she at least be in a functional relationship with a responsible man.

[ image: Salman Rushdie:
Salman Rushdie: "Even men will laugh"
Helen Fielding, who used to make Comic Relief documentaries in famine-hit parts of Africa for the BBC, has received lavish praise for the way she has detailed the trivial traumas which plague the single woman.

Fever Pitch author Nick Hornby said Bridget is a "creation of comic genius" and novelist Salman Rushdie said: "Even men will laugh."

Bridget Jones's Diary, which was Fielding's second novel, achieving cult status in the process and topping the best-seller list in Britain.

Admirer of Jane Austen

Fielding, a big fan of Jane Austen, says she borrowed some aspects of Pride and Prejudice and adapted them to a contemporary setting. One of the characters is even called Mr Darcy.

On the first meeting between Bridget and Mark Darcy, he is - like Jane Austen's character - a rather unenthusiastic party guest.

Bridget subsequently wrote in her diary: "It struck me as pretty ridiculous to be called Mr Darcy and to stand on you 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."

Nicholas Clee, deputy editor of The Bookseller magazine, says the book's phenomenal success is simple: "It is just very good. It is funny and well-observed and there is nothing else like it."

He says it is the first book to joke about the pressures on women in their thirties to get married, have children and stay youthful.

'The book of the moment'

Mr Clee predicts big success in the US, saying: "It seems on the face of it a very British book but it's being presented in America as the book of the moment and it looks like doing very well."

He says Bridget Jones shares the same insecurities as the characters in US TV series such as Ellen and Ally McBeal.

If the glowing reviews in many US newspapers are anything to go by there is every chance the book will sell millions of copies and make Ms Fielding a very wealthy woman.

The US magazine Publisher's Weekly said: "It's hard to imagine a funnier book appearing anywhere this year."

Working Title, the film company responsible for Four Weddings And A Funeral, are so confident the book's themes will translate across the Atlantic they have asked Ms Fielding to write a screenplay.

She is also busy working on a sequel, which is set to come out in 1999.

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