Saturday, August 31, 2013

Sixteen Years Ago & Still So Sad


Missing Chapter from
Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason
by Helen Fielding

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Sunday 31 August [1997]

10.30 a.m. Is unbelievable. Like dream or sick newspaper April Fool. Is unbelievable. Diana dies is just not kind of thing she would do.

11.10 a.m. Am going to put on telly and they will say it has been a mistake and she is back then we will see her coming out of the Harbour Club with all the photographers asking her what it was like.

11.30 a.m. Cannot believe it. Is so scary when is obvious no one in authority knows what to do.

Noon. At least Tony Blair is in control. Seemed to say what everyone was thinking instead of repeating 'grief and shock' over and over again in manner of parrot.

1.15 p.m. Seems like the world has gone mad. Is no normality to come back to. . . .

1.45 p.m. . . . all agree that she was our national treasure and all feel very bad that everyone was so niggardly about her and she did not like being in England. Is like great big hand coming down from heaven saying, 'If you are going to squabble about her no one is going to have her.'

. . .

6 p.m. Cannot believe she is dead. Keep having to look at newspaper headline again to make self believe it. Really Princess Diana was patron saint of Singleton women because she started off like the archetypal fairy tale doing what we all thought we were supposed to do i.e. marry a handsome prince, and she was honest enough to say that life is not like that. Also if made you feel that if someone so beautiful and gorgeous could be treated like shit by stupid men and feel unloved and lonely then it wasn't because you were rubbish if it happened to you. Also she kept re - inventing herself and sorting out her problems. She was always just trying so hard like modern women. . . .

6.30 p.m. Just keep staring into space. Simply hadn't realized how much Princess Diana was part of consciousness. Is like Jude or Shazzer being there and full of life and giggly jokes and lip gloss then suddenly being something so grown - up and horror - filled and alien as dead.

6.45 p.m. Just saw on telly woman has been to garden centre and bought a tree and planted it for Princess Diana. Maybe could plant something in window box e.g. um, basil? Could get from Cullens.

7 p.m. Hmm. Basil does not seem right somehow.

7.05 p.m. Everyone is going to Buckingham Palace with floral tributes as if is long - standing tradition. Have people always done this? Is it something naff people do to try to get on television like camping all night outside sales or good, real thing? Hmm. Feel want to go though.

7.10 p.m. What is point of living in capital city if cannot join in great expressions of feeling? Does not seem very English thing to do but maybe everything has changed with the changing weather and Europe and Tony Blair and it is all right to express yourself. Maybe she has changed English stuffiness.

7.45 p.m. OK, am definitely going to go to Kensington Palace. Have not got any flowers, though. Will get some from petrol station.

7.40 p.m. Petrol station has sold out. Only things like Chocolate Orange and custard left. Nice but inappropriate.

7.45 p.m. Bet she would like them, though.

7.50 p.m. Have chose copy of Vogue, Cadbury's Milk Tray, one Instants, and packet of Silk Cut. Not perfect but everyone will have brought flowers and know she liked Vogue.

9.30 p.m. V. glad went. Felt a bit shy walking through Kensington in case people knew where I was going and that was on own, but then when think about it Princess Diana was often on own.

Inside park was v. dark and gentle with everyone just walking quietly in one direction. Was no histrionics like on news. The bottom of the wall was covered with flowers and candles in the darkness and people relighting the candles that had gone out and reading messages.

Hope that she knows now after all the times she worried about not being good enough, look what everybody felt about her. Really all this should give a message to women who are worried about how they look and being rubbish and expecting so much of themselves just not to worry so much. Felt a bit embarrassed about the Vogue and chocolate and Instants so hid under flowers and looked at the messages, which made you think that you do not have to be a spokesman or anything to be able to express things. The best one was copied from the Bible, I think, and it said in wobbly old lady's writing: 'When I was in trouble you cared about me, when I was in danger you tried to stop it, when I was sick you visited me, when people ran away you took my hand. Whatever you did for the poorest and the smallest people I felt as if you did it for me.'

Monday 1 September

. . . 'And now Princess Diana is dead,' said Shazzer solemnly.

The mood abruptly changed. We all fell silent, tyring to absorb this violent, shocking and unthinkable thought.

pp 323 - 336
in the Picador Edition, 1999

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Every year, at the end of August, I get out my British copy of Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason and reread this poignant section, which is one of the dearest in memoriams to Diana, Princess of Wales, that I have ever read. I wept real tears when I read it the first time (in 1999). I went back and read this part again when I got to the end of the novel; then I went back and read the whole novel again; and the Diana part was just as good the third time. Even if you're not a Bridget fan, even if you don't read any other part of the book, in this brief section alone Fielding conveys the wave of emotion surrounding Diana's death. Overwhelmingly real and so much like we felt at the time. V. sad and true.

In subsequent printings of the novel, including those editions by Viking & Penguin that were marketed in the United States, this chapter and the next (spanning the days from Diana's fatal accident until shortly after the funeral, 31 August - 8 September, 1997) have been severely and awkwardly edited to leave out all mention of Diana. Why I cannot imagine! Nor can I find any satisfactory explanation for the omission on google or amazon. I've come across one reviewer who has recently questioned the removal of "a major plot twist"; and one interview with Helen Fielding, who, oddly, doesn't seem to mind having had her text tampered with. [Me? I'd be furious!]

As I read aloud every discrepancy to some fellow Bridget fans, one exclaimed, "Why would they do that? Diana was just as important in American as she was in England." But would that have been the reason? To somehow make the book more fun (by making it less serious, less factual) for American readers? Or was it to un - acknowledge this tragic moment in history, for the sake of British readers? I have yet to figure this one out!

Making the Pilgrimage in February 2000
Where Have All the Flowers Gone?


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Coming Soon! ~ Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy