Sunday, March 1, 2009

It Can't Be My Grave and Bridget Jones's Diary

This has been my week to try to catch up with the rest of you, though I am pretty sure I am not there yet. I read two books last week: a mystery by S. F. X. Dean; It Can't Be My Grave and Helen Fielding's Bridget Jones's Diary. Interestingly, both of these books are written in first-person, a narration style that I have just realized annoys the heck out of me.

It took reading these two books in a space of about four days to make me realize that I loathe this narration style. If I am being generous to myself, I can try to justify this by thinking, "The opportunity for character development other than the main character is just not as available to the writer. So all the other characters seem flat." That makes it sound like it can't possibly be MY own inadequacies that keep me from enjoying this style.

It Can't Be My Grave is about a professor who is in London to do publicity for his new book about John Donne. He meets a businessman who wants him to research the origins of an Elizabethan play which he thinks may have been written by his ancestor. Before he can agree to research, the businessman is murdered. This novel is short, and also short on plot, I think. You don't really care who killed the man; the characters, except for the professor, are one dimensional. The writer does make-up somewhat for the flat plot with well-written dialogue. It is witty and clever, in fact there were times that I was amazed that someone who could write so well couldn't do better with the storyline. All in all, I'd have to give this book a solid B-. I'm not sorry I wasted time on it, but I probably won't look for another by the author.

And then there is Bridget Jones's Diary. I think I was one of the few thirty-something women left in America who had neither read the book not watched the movie. Again, I had my "first-person narrator" issues to work through and again, I think the author had the same problems. One (sort-of) well-developed character, the rest flat and unappealing. To be honest, I really hated this book. At least S. F. X. Dean was honest with his pitiful plot. Fielding swiped hers and is proud of it. That set me thinking about whether Pride and Prejudice is really and truly a universal plot, like Romeo and Juliet or Macbeth, or even Oliver Twist. If it is, I don't think this is a particularly good use of the plot. I don't like Bridget much and I like the other characters even less. My grade for this book: Meh... C-, I guess. I feel generous today.


  1. I have major issues with first person narration as well. I have found a few writers who do it well and I can actually get into the story. Others, not. I understand completely where you are coming from. It makes it difficult to read the story.

  2. If you feel that way about the first Bridget Jones Diary, don't read the second! I could barely force myself to read it!


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