When I was a girl, Bridget Jones’s Diary was the book my mum told me I wasn't allowed to read yet. And as a teenager, Bridget Jones was the film Renée Zellweger got fat for. Ten years later a friend gave me a copy of the book for my 26th birthday, outraged that I hadn't read it before, and within pages I was charmed. I found Bridget hilarious and almost unnervingly familiar, though also just exaggerated enough to make me feel above her neuroses.
She taught me that there are a lot of things about life that are acutely embarrassing for a woman to be caught doing, but that they will continue doing them anyway – wearing huge M&S pants, endlessly obsessing over messages from boys, and drinking white wine with girls and gays until you're all screechier than Nikki Grahame. Feeling superior to a lovable but scatty acquaintance may not be honourable but it's definitely enjoyable, which meant the sequel was still full of joy, despite its wildly silly plot. I look forward to catching up with Bridget for a third instalment – how else will I know how not to behave in my forties?
Calories consumed: a gazillion (gaah). Ludicrous plot twists in new diary: one dead Mr Darcy; one 29-year-old toy boy called Roxter (really?) and one heroine who’s surely old enough to know better. Previous diaries sold: 15 million and counting (vg).
Oh, Bridge. When I first read your diary you were a hapless comic genius and the sloppy older sister any girl would like to have. Beneath your Chardonnay hangovers, your hated muffin top and your massive bum-related humiliations, you were actually someone girls could want to be (you had a cool job! Witty friends! A flat in London! Which you didn’t have to share!)
But then you staggered into that sequel. Job and pals were eclipsed in your setback-the-sisterhood quest to land a fella. It got worse. There were rumours of a movie threequel in which you’d be knocked up by posh hard-on Daniel Cleaver, then marry chequebook-in-a-novelty-jumper Mark Darcy. And now you’re really back. Careerless, over-tweeting, hiding your empties from your kids' nanny in a big house that the girls who cheered you on will never afford. Bridge: you’re as dire as any whimpering simpering Victorian heroine – just older, drunker, and fatter. And who needs fiction to experience that?
Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy by Helen Fielding is published by Jonathan Cape