Picks and Pans Review: Helen Fielding
Olivia Joules and the Overactive Imagination
In her fourth novel, a spy caper called Olivia Joules and the Overactive Imagination, Helen Fielding (Bridget Jones's Diary) pits an intrepid beauty reporter against (yes) al-Qaeda. From her home in L.A. (where she's spending time with her son, born in February), Fielding tells PEOPLE how Olivia took shape:
Q: Why a thriller?
A: The essential ingredient in all the best novels from Austen to Dickens is the ability to make the reader wonder what's going to happen next. The thriller uses that quality in its purest form; I thought if I taught myself how to write one it would be an excellent basis for my future profound works- and would mean I didn't have to steal any more of Jane Austen's plots.
Why bring in Osama bin Laden?
It's a contemporary spy novel. Bin Laden and al-Qaeda are the enemy now. It would have been ridiculous in the 21st century to have a spy take on the KGB.
Is the world ready for a madcap tale about tracking terrorists?
Absolutely—though it's not exactly madcap. It's more of a Bond-type fantasy with comedy in it.... Olivia is a fantasy heroine full of pluck and grit. You think, "If she can do it, then maybe, if the chips were down, so could I."
Will Olivia spark controversy?
Definitely. Like many of us, she's thinking about bin Laden a bit too much. She imagines that she sees him in absurd places, like a face-cream launch. I suspect that Olivia's imaginings are being repeated in airports and elevators all over the Western world. I think it's important to air out that kind of fear and laugh at it; if you can't, it's beaten you. This, however, is bound to annoy people who don't see life the same way as me.
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