James Francken

  • Finding Myself by Toby Litt
    Hamish Hamilton, 425 pp, £14.99, June 2003, ISBN 0 241 14155 9

It was Bridget Jones’s Diary, published in 1996, that marked the arrival of ‘chick lit’; the phrase appeared in the OED late last year. If the dictionary definition brushes the genre aside – ‘(chiefly derog.) literature which is perceived or marketed as appealing to young women’ – it is not the fault of Helen Fielding’s comedy of manners. Fielding’s blundering, know-nothing heroine, ‘rudderless and boyfriendless’ at 32, has been imitated in any number of opportunistic rip-offs, in which the incidental comic details that made Bridget Jones an effective character have hardened. The chick-lit narrator must worry about her weight, croak for a drink, tot up the cigarettes she smokes, mix in a crowd with improbable names – in Bridget’s case, Una, Piggy and Desdemona – and be hampered by an awful, overbearing mother (Fielding dedicated the novel to her ‘mum … for not being like Bridget’s’). Chick-lit novelists have stuck with this style, and their books continue to sell.

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