Emma Young’s second novel, The Disorganisation of Celia Stone, is so much more than an updated homage to Bridget Jones’s Diary. Though it may start off with a number of similarities – chief among them, the diary format, and witty, self-deprecating tone, the book goes beyond the ground covered by that beloved 90s classic, exploring themes of disordered eating, motherhood, chronic illness, climate change, financial well-being, perfectionism, friendship and so much more.
Our protagonist, Celia, begins the year with a plan. On New Year’s Day, she and her husband Jes go out for a coffee and Celia sets out her method for making this the best year ever. She has printouts and highlighters. She’s invoking the 80/20 principle. But even the best-laid plans go awry, and as Jes asks Celia to consider how a baby might fit into her perfectly plotted life, Celia begins to veer off on a trajectory she’d never accounted for.
Told in monthly instalments, the reader goes along with Celia on this journey. Though she’s bossy, stubborn and a little bit over the top, you can’t help but fall in love with her. She just wants to make everything better for everyone around her. She’s striving to be the best version of herself. And like so many of us – in particular, like so many of us women – she’s finding having it all a bit of a struggle.
Based on the author’s own struggle with Hypothalamic Amenorrhea (HA), The Disorganisation of Celia Stone deftly balances the light and dark of its protagonist’s life. Though she’s writing her own story, you find yourself wondering just how reliable a narrator she really is, and how often she’s managing to fool herself. Young’s great skill in crafting secondary characters and writing subtext allows us to build a portrait of the real Celia, even when her words are telling us something completely different.
Though the book asks big questions and can be confronting in parts, this is a novel with a lot of heart and a lot to say. It’s perfect for the Bridget fan who got frustrated at all of the calorie counting, and has a touch of the Marian Keyes at its most insouciant moments. I loved it!