On July 13th the creator of the unforgettable Bridget Jones was awarded an honorary degree at The University of York.
In a survey conducted by The Guardian, Bridget Jones’s Diary was named as one of the ten novels that best defined the 20th century, and its author has often been credited with establishing the literary genre now known as “chicklit”, one of the most successful genre in today’s fiction industry.
Born in Morley, West Yorkshire, in 1958, the author and screenwriter attended Wakefield Girls’ High School before studying English at St Anne’s College, Oxford. Working as a BBC Regional Researcher in 1979, she wrote and produced documentaries in Africa for Comic Relief fundraising broadcasts, and in 1989 was involved in a documentary about the South Sudan War, forming the basis for her first novel Cause Celeb (1994).
She was later approached by The Independent to write a column as herself about single life in London. Fielding created instead the exaggerated and comic character that was to make her famous. The column was only a way to finance another novel about a fictional country in Africa, but when the people started praising the column, her identity was revealed and her publishers asked her to set aside her novel in progress to publish a novel on Bridget Jones instead.
The novel was based on an outline of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and even features a Mr Darcy, as all readers have noticed.
Bridget Jones’s Diary and Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason (based on the outline of Jane Austen’s Persuasion) were published in 40 countries and sold more than 15 million copies. Their film adaptations, with Fielding on the scriptwriting team, achieved worldwide success and a third Bridget Jones novel, Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy was published in 2013.
A third film, Bridget Jones’s Baby – based on Helen’s 2006 columns in The Independent and bridging the gap between the second and the third Bridget Jones novels – is scheduled for release in September 2016. A book will also accompany the film!
Upon receiving her degree, the new Doctor honoris causa said: “This means a lot to me because I, and Bridget Jones I suppose, grew up in Yorkshire. My values were formed here in Yorkshire. And also some areas of myself – which are happily concealed beneath these lovely robes – which are made up of Yorkshire pudding, fish and chips, various large based desserts and cakes from Betty’s café.”
For Helen Fielding, Yorkshire’s values are, amongst other things, about “bringing things down to earth with a laugh, and a sense that nothing, and no one, is perfect.”
She added in a quite moving second half of her speech: “we’re all human and flawed and we’re all able to laugh at ourselves. One of the tricks to being successful in life is knowing how to fail and get up again. As long as we all keep our sense of humour about ourselves, then we’ll all be alright.” Those words seem to sum up Bridget Jones’ message to us.
Watch the video of Helen Fielding’s receiving her honorary degree.
So why don’t you come and get your own copy of one of Helen Fielding’s novels at our shop?