Stephanie's Reviews > Bridget Jones's Diary

Bridget Jones's Diary by Helen Fielding
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Feb 18, 2009

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Read in February, 2009

I remember being shocked and appalled that the American publishers of the Harry Potter books figured that American children were too feebleminded to work out that "jumper" actually means "sweater" and so they changed the British English to American English.

Likewise, it appears that the American publishers of Bridge Jones's Diary, by Helen Fielding, believe that American women are too feebleminded to understand that "stone" is a weight measurement, and have substituted all of Bridget's "stones" with "pounds", at the beginnings of her diary entries. Good heavens! We're not that stupid, and part of the charm of reading a book written by a foreign author is experiencing a little shock of dislocation.

I first read Bridget Jones's Diary many years ago, during my junior year abroad in England, where I read the original version (appropriately enough) that was published and printed in England. In the intervening years, I've seen the movie a few times, and have returned to the book with the embarassing realization that I remember the movie much more vividly than the original book (although I remember "stones"). But returning to the book has been a pleasant surprise.

I've been thinking about favorite books -- classics -- and the translations thereof into modern times and settings. How does an author successfully update an exciting plot twist that depends for its excitement on outdated social mores? How, in the twenty-first century, can Darcy rescue the honor of Elizabeth's family when nobody really gives a rip if Lydia is unmarried and living with Wickham? Ms. Fielding comes up with a nice solution: Mark Darcy helps return Bridget's mum to the bosom of her family, after Bridget's mum has run off with a bounder who scams all of Bridget's family's friends in a despicable ponzi-style real estate pyramid scheme. Mark Darcy also uses his own money to help pay back the money these gullible dupes have lost (I find that entirely unrealistic) and helps the police apprehend the bounder. Scamming your own friends in a ponzi scheme is about as scandalous and inappropriate in the twenty-first century as was living in sin at the turn of the nineteenth. This plot point, btw, was entirely absent from the movie.

I'm not sure how well Ms. Fielding did with the rest of her adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. I don't think she really managed to capture Jane Austen's gentle yet biting wit. Part of my reaction, however, may be due to the fact that I was reading a copy where the poor soul who originally owned it had underlined the most earnest and heartfelt of Bridget's silly thoughts; I think any satire entirely passed her by. Still, not a bad book! I bought it at a "Friends of the Library" sale, and thought to myself, "what price fun and frivolity?" Well worth it.
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Shannon Personally, I think for those situations they should just add a "dictionary" in the back. (Well for the American versions.)
It would keep the original integrity of the book intact, while allowing people who don't know the slang to understand.


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