Chick Lit

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Chick Lit

It all began in 1998, with the publication of British writer Helen Fielding’s novel, Bridget Jones’s Diary. The story of an overweight, average looking young woman negotiating the hurly-gurly of life, love and career, liberally dosed with wacky humour had women readers cracking up and wanting more. In the history of modern literature, that event might be recorded as the birth of ‘chick lit’ or ‘books written by women, for women’.

So what differentiates chick lit from the regular ‘women’s fiction’ that’s been around forever? Essentially, it’s about style. Where the older genre tended to fall between sentimental and serious, its younger rival flaunts a hip, wisecracking tone and may even portray its heroine in ridiculous, embarrassing situations. Central themes between the two may be similar, romance, friendship, marriage and work, but chick lit typically comes with hefty doses of pop culture, so you have plenty of print devoted to designer-wear, trendy cocktails and party hotspots (think Candace Bushnell’s Sex and the City).


Why has the genre taken off in popularity recently?
While regular women’s lit traditionally focuses intensely on the hero-heroine interaction, chick lit is more about the heroine grappling with ordeals and issues that are often completely familiar territory for the reader. Reading chick lit is like chuckling over a woman friend’s confidences, a bonding process that readers find positively addictive!

In 1999, The Girls' Guide to Hunting and Fishing, by Melissa Bank took chick lit to American shores. Since then, chick lit has diversified to cover a wide reading audience.

Some writers focus on the workplace, remember The Devil Wears Prada? Stories for older women are “Matron Lit”. Other sub-genres include “Bride Lit” (Shopaholic Ties the Knot by Sophie Kinsella, The Other Woman by Jane Green). “Ethnic Chick Lit” and “Widow Lit” are self-explanatory!

Who are the most popular authors of chick lit?
Some of chick lit’s high priestesses are Meg Cabot (The Princess Diaries, Boy Meets Girl), Jennifer Weiner (Good in Bed) and Sophia Kinsella (the Shopaholic series), whose books still fly off the shelves. Among newer writers, Olson Shannon and Sarah Dunn have acquired a name for their sharp, funny style; also look out for Brit Lit writers Isabel Wolf, Wendy Holden and Lisa Jewell.

Which are the best chick lit reads?
Among older novels, there’s Marian Keyes’ The Other Side of the Story, Emily Giffin’s Something Borrowed and The Help by Kathryn Stockett (the last two were adapted into movies this year). Bridget Jones, of course, is virtually a classic.

Chick lit often draws critical flak for its fluffy approach. But then it doesn’t pretend to be anything other than entertaining. It’s also surprisingly insightful, one reason why it strikes a chord with scores of the young women it attracts.


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