Books: Independent choice - Bridget Jones clones
Saturday 08 August 1998
Take Alice Lewis, the heroine of Naylor's second novel. She "wanted to live in an Aga Saga. She longed for a refectory with a crumbling wall and dogs." This she proves by entering a "Jane Asher tea shop". It is an unlikely scenario in which the impression that the character is being made to play a part exceeds what that part reveals about her. This forbids our identification, despite the assertion that "Alice is a girl like any other".
These novels seem to want to say both "I am really like that" and "that is not really what I am like" - to express a need to be both normal and a little crazy, to validate and repudiate the "trials" they describe. At times, and this is particularly true of Tiffany Trott, this ambivalence borders on cynicism - as if Wolff wants her protagonist to poke fun at the book's own characterisation as cartoonish.
Indeed, there is much to be cynical about. Weight, by nature a great variable, has a phantom quality in these novels. One minute Alice Lewis is over the moon to discover that she can fit into her friend's trousers, the next she is said to possess "soft marble white curves... [that] defy any amount of time spent on the treadmills". Then there is Jemima J, whose eponymous heroine sheds six stone before finding her true self as "a curvy size 12".
Tiffany, Alice and Jemima are all bombarded with images of consumption. Just as Alice chooses a Jane Asher shop, Tiffany doesn't drink coffee, but Nescafe. Moods are described in terms of what can be suitably consumed at any moment. Thus Alice and her friend Tash watch Reservoir Dogs when "the psychopaths in their souls" have been "stirred up by evil males". However, as well as being victims of an image bombardment, you will notice that all the heroines' names possess a catchiness which is itself commercial. When, despite the trials, each finds a man and comes good, their success is partially the commercial success of living up to their fantastic names.
So doing, however, they seem to sell out. They lose the sense of failure and of coerced role-playing which seemed to be the characters' main points of identification with their readers. Transformed by success, a strange thing happens to these heroines: they become, for the readers, the equivalent ot their own formidable best friends.
Best friends tend to be a motley crew in this genre - always slimmer, more successful and prettier than the heroines. This new relationship is affirmed at each books' close, usually in a trite passage of reflection. "Fairy tales can come true," writes Jane Green, "if we trust in ourselves, embrace our faults and brazen it out with courage, strength, bravery and truth, fate may just smile on us too." Just what we needed. Another role model.
Life & Style blogs
How Old Do I Look: Microsoft’s super advanced age-guessing app is terrible at guessing how old celebrities are, too
What do the emoji on Snapchat mean?
The 12 most sexually satisfied countries in the world revealed
ZX Spectrum to return with Vega reboot
Uploading pictures to find out how old you are gives Microsoft the right to post them wherever they want
Over 50,000 families shipped out of London boroughs in the past three years due to welfare cuts and soaring rents
EU asylum policy is 'a direct threat to our civilisation', says Nigel Farage
The Rothschild Libel: Why has it taken 200 years for an anti-Semitic slur that emerged from the Battle of Waterloo to be dismissed?
General Election 2015: SNP and its activists 'openly racist' towards the English, Farage says
General Election 2015: UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power, Labour warns
Schools forced to act as 'miniature welfare states' with teachers buying underwear and even haircuts for poor pupils
- 1 Lucy Hawking: Stephen Hawking's daughter writes impassioned open letter to Katie Hopkins about rights of disabled people
- 2 #NotGuilty: Second Oxford student writes of brutal rape by two men who then threw her in a bin as part of campaign against victim blaming
- 3 Indonesia executions: Death row British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford will refuse to wear a blindfold when she faces firing squad
- 4 Oxygen-starved 'dead zones' with no marine life up to 100-miles long discovered in the Atlantic Ocean
- 5 How the language you speak changes your view of the world
£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...
£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...
£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...
£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...