cover image Cause Celeb

Cause Celeb

Helen Fielding. Viking Books, $24.95 (352pp) ISBN 978-0-670-89450-5

Fielding's first novel, published now in the States only following the success of her second (Bridget Jones's Diary), is a sometimes hilarious, sometimes moving, occasionally scurrilous delight. Rosie Richardson, the administrator of Safila, a refugee camp in the fictional African country of Nambula, needs funds fast. The usual relief agencies are tied up in diplomatic knots, a long-promised supply ship is always 10 days away and it looks as though thousands of refugees are about to come streaming over the border. If they arrive before the food does, hundreds of people will starve to death. Rosie, desperate, does the only thing she can think of: she quits her job, returns to England and organizes a celebrity fund drive. This effort is complicated by the fact that her ex-boyfriend, a manipulative TV presenter named Oliver, is her only access to celebrities. On top of dealing with the self-centered celebs, she must also come to terms with her old attraction to him. This is a tall order, as he is devastatingly handsome and unspeakably selfish. Unsurprisingly, the book turns out to be about growing up; the interest comes when it turns out that Rosie isn't the only one obliged to do so. Crosscutting from past to present, this is a two-for-the-price-of-one story: an amusing satire of the celebrity-obsessed West, and a sharp report on the callousness and inefficiency of relief work in Africa. Swinging from laugh-out-loud funny to heartbreakingly sad, this book will please Fielding's old fans and win new ones. (Feb.) Forecast: Those who doubted Fielding could sustain her momentum may be surprised by her staying power. While this novel won't match the sales of Bridget Jones's Diary, it should do very wellDit has sold more than 500,000 copies in the U.K. and EuropeDwith sales boosted by the February release of the paperback edition of Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason and, in April, the release of the film version of Bridget Jones's Diary.