Saturday, February 11, 2006

Reading Olivia Joules and the Overactive Imagination (by Helen Fielding)

Frankly, could you hate a book which contains the following: "It was a perfectly simple problem: she had fallen in love with a man. It was the sort of thing that could happen to anyone, apart from him being an international terrorist. The symptoms werefamiliarr: only thirty per cent of her brain was operational. The rest was taken up with a combination of fantasy and flashback. Every time she tried calmly to evaluate her situation and make a plan, her mind was overwhelmed by images of an entire future with Feramo, beginning with scuba diving in crystalline Caribbean waters, followed by shagging in Bedouin tents in the Sudanese desert, concluding with Grace Kelly-Prince Rainer-style married life in yachts, palaces, etc.[...]." ?

I suppose not. Because even if you could, the paragraph continues witsomethingng that is bound to invoke at least a smile if not a laugh. "She tried desperately to pull herself together. I am not, she told herself, going to follow a man anywhere. Women have evolved and learnt to do everything that used to be men's work and they have responded by regressing. They cannot even mend things any more."

Ladies and gentlemen and dear Googlebot, I introduce you to Ms. Olivia Joules. A self-invented woman, a freelance journalist, a stunning beauty, who also, should the need arise, transforms herself into a superb detective, who surpasses even the most shining CIA intellects. And who, completely involuntarily, of course, falls for a senior member of al-Qaeda.

After having read (and LOVED) Bridget Jones, I decided to read the fourth novel by the same author. When I opened the book, I expected a modern romance turned comedy, but I was served a different dish. This book is more a female thriller with romantic intermezzos than a sequel to Bridget: Edge of Reason. (I say female because it is not a hard core thriller and saying it is a "soft" thriller would be ... strange.) Despite the cliches, this book vibrates with life and freshness.

So, by the time I reached the part where Olivia falls for this international terrorist, I was disappointed. No more shy, sexually repressed Mark Darcy, no more Bridget's being late for work every day... Also what is terrorism doing in such a book? But once I left the prejudices behind and realized, this is not going to be predictable, at least not entirely predictable, certainly not a spinoff from Bridget, I had lots of fun with this book. It surely is funny, though not quite Bridget-funny. It is predictable to an amount, but unpredictable enough to keep you going and though the characters are a bit cliche, they never cease to be entertaining.

"Concentrate, Olivia, she said to herself. Concentrate. We are not a skittish backpacker on our gap year. We are a top foreign journalist and possible international spy on a mission of global significance." Perhaps, just perhaps the book has a Bridget aura to it. Perhaps that is also the reason I liked it. It would be impossible for me to read the above paragraph and NOT find the book amusing. It reminds me mightily of Bridget's mantra. And this is no coincidence, because if Bridget did manage to lose her weight, became a semi-competent reporter and decided that shyness was no longer fashionable, she would morph into Olivia.

This is a lovely book to read when you want to take your mind off things, but don't expect it to be an intellectual challenge. And if ever the plot gets slightly too fantastic to be true, just sigh and say: it's fiction. Olivia Joules with her hat pin and a special underwired bra is the new "Fielding" heroine, even though you might sometimes wonder why she's so fearless. If you have a spare day or two and want to read something light, I highly recommend this book. (Or Bridget, if you prefer romance to thrillers.)

P.S. Must find a synonym for "also".
P.P.S. Yes, Bo, I'm writing the LOTR review. I'm half-way through. Patience. :)

posted by Nadezhda | 13:21


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