Saturday, February 13, 2010

Mrs. Tim Christie, by D.E. Stevenson

Let me first say that this was delightful. Then let me say that it was terifically upsetting to read, because I think something strange has happened.

I came across this book (last published in 1974, although a reprint is scheduled for 2011) because I was looking for read-alikes for The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, as Guernsey etc. is the Read Across Rhode Island book of the year. I can't remember exactly where I saw it mentioned, but it sounded good enough that I requested it through interlibrary loan, got it, and there my troubles started.

Mrs. Tim Christie is an officer's wife in the years before WWII, and the book is her daily diary. It is funny, witty, effortlessly charming, and told in an incredibly distinct and recognizable voice. There are quirks of the voice (and I'm sure English majors have a word for this) that make it unique- almost. As I read, horror seeped into me, because, I kid you not, Mrs. Tim Christie's voice was not new to me. It was the same voice that was used, to great effect, in Bridget Jones' Diary. I can't say what an odd shock that was.

I also can't imagine (though I suppose I could hope) that this is accidental, or a coincidence.

I can't find any mention of Helen Fielding crediting D.E. Stevenson, anywhere, with inspiring her. Now, Bridget Jones' Diary, as most know, is a kind of take-off of Pride and Prejudice, as are about eleventy-billion other books and movies, and the homage to Austen is made clear throughout the book, with Bridget and her friends watching the Colin Firth movie version of P+P, Mark Darcy obviously being an updated Mr. Darcy, and so on and so on. It is a truth universally acknowledged that Bridget Jones is built upon Jane Austen and P+P. That didn't stop the book from being greeted, joyfully and with great praise, by pretty much the whole world.

Another reader has noted a resemblance in voice between Stevenson and E.M. Delafield's Portrait of a Provincial Lady (another book I adore)- but I really feel that Helen Fielding must have read the Mrs. Tim Books (and almost certainly must have come across both D.E. Stevenson and E.M. Delafield in her own reading.) I just wish she credited them as openly as she has Jane Austen.

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