Yet another London career girl looks for fulfillment, though newcomer Maxted’s narrator has enough endearing charm to make her stand out from the rest of the Bridget Jones clones.
When she begins her story, 26-year-old Helen Bradshaw is relatively happy as an assistant at a woman’s magazine, flatmate to sweet Luke and sexy Marcus, and center of a close-knit circle of girlfriends. But when her father suddenly dies of a heart attack, Helen spends the rest of the year (and the novel) “getting over it”—a flippant suggestion offered far more easily than achieved. At first Helen seems a pillar of strength, comforting her increasingly withdrawn and suicidal mother and moving on with her own life in quick time. The personal blunders Helen continually makes, however, suggest unresolved grief and conflicted feelings about a father who was distant in the best of times. It’s a lot to handle, especially for a girl who’s engaged in a colossal fight with Marcus (with whom she regrettably slept in a moment of weakness), the romantic pursuit of Tom (who always catches Helen at her very worst moments), and a struggle over what to do about her friend Tina, whose perfect boyfriend is beating up on her. It’s a wonder Helen makes it to work in the morning—though once there she assiduously avoids working. All this drama is conveyed in the lightest manner, with an overload of hip references (Fox Mulder and Quentin Tarantino turn up on the same page), and seesaws between annoying and entertaining. Finally, though, Helen’s plight succeeds in winning the reader’s sympathy, the slight and the heartfelt strike a companionable balance, and by the end all hopes are for our heroine’s happiness.
A friendly summer read that manages to rise above the lighter-than-air comic fluff that terminally inflates many another Bridget Jones wannabe—by now a genre all its own.