Review

Cause Celeb

by Helen Fielding

"Later she said that Africa was just another version of my
masochistic bastard complex and I should stay in England, learn to
love myself and go out with bores."
One
really wants to like CAUSE CELEB. BRIDGET JONES'S DIARY and BRIDGET
JONES: The Edge of Reason were both such fun, and Bridget was such
an endearing character that one picks up Helen Fielding's latest
novel hoping for more of the same wit and farce.
That
CAUSE CELEB was Fielding's first novel comes as no surprise.
Clearly it has been published in the U.S. to capitalize on the
success of her earlier books. This is no crime in itself. The great
thing about Bridget was that she was so earnest in her quest for
self-improvement and so whimsical about love. Sure she could be
cloying, counting every last calorie even as she was downing that
third chocolate croissant, but her charm lay in her vast ability to
laugh at herself. Unfortunately, Rosie Richardson, the Heroine
(with a capital H) of CAUSE CELEB, does not share that
ability.
Rosie Richardson is a publicist at a London publishing house.
She describes herself as a literary puffette whose main job seems
to be to attend parties looking appropriately pretty. At one such
event she meets Oliver Merchant, a hotshot television personality
who appears to be a drunken cross between Charlie Rose and Warren
Beatty. It is never sufficiently clear why Rosie is so drawn to
Oliver. He treats her hideously, his assistant calls her to make
and break each of their dates, and he says things to Rosie such as,
"I've fallen in love with you but I'm not in love with you." She
stays with him through much emotional abuse and when she's had
enough she escapes to run a refugee camp in the African
desert.
As
she throws herself into running the African camp, Rosie undoubtedly
grows up, realizes the important things in life and sees that in
other parts of the world celebrity is not everything; food and
shelter cannot be taken for granted and nothing is more important
than health. These are solid points to make, and we are proud that
Rosie has not only matured but gained self-confidence as well. But
the African storyline is not substantial enough to compete with the
giddy exploits of the emotionally stunted luminaries back home, and
even Rosie's burgeoning love affair with the camp doctor lacks
sufficient steam.
Four
years later, Rosie returns to London to organize her celebrity
friends for an event to raise money for the deeply endangered
refugees back in Africa. This becomes the "cause celeb" of the
title. Seeing Rosie's well-heeled friends out of their element in
plague-stricken Africa would be amusing except that the refugees
are indeed slowly starving to death. Certainly the British
celebrities are there to enhance their own images as well as help
the starving Africans, but does that mean they should not do their
part to help raise money and ease the suffering? This is where
Fielding is unclear, and it is murky whether or not their presence
is helpful or a grand waste of time.
It
begs the question: When Westerners help Third World countries are
they only doing it to ease their own consciences? And if so, does
that mean they should not offer their help? There is an underlying
cynicism that is hinted at but never addressed. The book wraps up a
bit too tidily --- Rosie gets her good doctor, and the Africans
eat. For now.

Reviewed by Sara Leopold on January 21, 2011

Cause Celeb
by Helen Fielding

  • Publication Date: January 29, 2001
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Hardcover: 342 pages
  • Publisher: Viking
  • ISBN-10: 0670894508
  • ISBN-13: 9780670894505