Review

Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy

by Helen Fielding

126lb, calories 2543, hours slept 5.5, giant mugs of caffeine drunk 3, Facebook Friends 59, words of review written 0

Friday 18 October 2013
6:30 A.M.
Gaaah! Yes, DIARY fans, Bridget Jones has returned, and it’s my job to let you know how she is surviving the 21st century.

Not so well. Or maybe am just sleep deprived. More coffee. Shower. Back in five.

2:04 P.M. Took longer to wake up than I thought. But Bridget too is always late. In fact, she is always struggling to be a Perfect Something: screenwriter, lover, daughter, mother….

She has kids, two of them, Billy and Mabel. With Mark Darcy, dishy human-rights lawyer (remember him?). Except he’s dead. Killed by a landmine in Darfur five years before book begins. BJ fans irate at this turn of events. Death threats to Fielding. Jane Austen (original DIARY inspired by PRIDE AND PREJUDICE) would never have shocked us with tragedy when settling down for nice cozy, humorous read.

Speaking of literary classics, Bridget, in this book, is working on screenplay inspired by Hedda Gabbler (spelling hers), which she thinks was written by Chekhov (Ibsen, from the grave, is irate).When corrected, she does not flinch (“I can always pretend it was intelligent irony”). Later vows to take on From the Lighthouse. Good luck with that!

128lb, calories 3040 (blame on goat brie), pieces of clothing purchased online 1, hours of TV watched 3.5, reviews of book in NY Times 2, words of own review written 220

Sunday 20 October 2013
8:15 A.M.
So Bridget is sad and, amazingly, 51 years old. Can Fielding pull off trick of updating DIARY while including note of tragedy but not so much as to make book unfunny? Yes and no.

She is same old (really old) Bridget --- missing pronouns and articles intact --- except now she texts and tweets. Most of her communications are with a hot 30-year-old bloke named Roxby McDuff, Roxster for short, whom she meets once she has overcome resistance to dating after several years as widow/Born-Again Virgin.

At first, true to form, she is socially inept (“Number One Key Dating Rule: DO NOT TEXT WHEN DRUNK”); as for her parenting skills, clearly they were never meant to stand alone (her daughter has a doll named Saliva. I rest my case). Thus, the book is a slapsticky narrative of irresponsible mess-making that includes lateness, head lice, vomiting, farting (especially in yoga class), techno-cluelessness, and food spilled on self --- despite vain resolutions to get her life in order and devote herself to kids (“Maybe will go to yoga and become more flexible. Or maybe will go out with friends and get plastered”).

9:05 A.M. Bridget wouldn’t be Bridget without a posse of freakish yet tenderhearted chums, who pitch in with matchmaking (“She HAS to get laid”), fashion advice (“You can’t rely on your arse in jeans at our age”), and a novel approach to middle-aging that involves “rebranding,” Botox, and YSL thigh boots. As they enter a dimly lit, trendy club, Bridget has an attack of nerves, crying, “I’m too old!” “So?” says one of her friends. “It’s practically pitch black.” 

Meanwhile, although Mark has left her with plenty of cash, Bridget’s creative soul craves work. The movie-biz scenes in which she peddles her screenplay to Greenlight Productions are amusingly peopled by time-pressed, globe-trotting execs who want to shift her story from Norway to Hawaii. On a yacht.    

lbs & calories unknown (afraid to face scale or fridge in grim cold après-weekend light), last-chance online sales fallen for 2, library books finished 0, words of review written 585, minutes spent worrying about deadline 386

Monday 21 October 2013
7:53 A.M.
Right! Time for some criticism. Otherwise, what sort of reviewer would I be?

Hyperbole is Fielding’s literary mode of choice, and though much of the time it works, exaggeration can get tiresome, especially since raunchy single-woman stuff is pretty run-of-the-mill these days (Bridesmaids makes Bridget look tame). When the DIARY first came out, SEX AND THE CITY (the book) had just been published, and the frank-yet-endearing sexually explicit Chick Lit thing was fresh and engaging. A few years later, the definitive harassed working-mother novel appeared with I DON’T KNOW HOW SHE DOES IT (2002). As for dating a younger man, think “Cougar Town.”MAD ABOUT THE BOY touches all these bases; originality is not its strong suit.

Also, there is wallowing. I’m not against a comic novel having moments of seriousness, but some grossly sentimental moments made me wince (“Mummy, will Daddy know I’m doing the concert?” asks little bassoon-playing Billy). Moreover, I was less than persuaded by an epiphany about imperfection that magically brings Bridget intimacy with insecure babysitter and peace with annoying mother. And, by the way, on subject of perfection and im-, BJ, despite frequent and graphic bodily meltdowns, always always seems to have ideal, glitch-free sex. This is not realistic.

Plus, the plotting is obvious: The Man of BJ’s Dreams is telegraphed early in the book, and a happy ending hovers throughout. Despite all the frenetic, angst-y window dressing, MAD ABOUT THE BOY (the title is from a Noel Coward song; neither Fielding nor Bridget is as anti-intellectual as she appears) is a nearly Hollywood-ready rom-com.

Tuesday 22 October 2013
8:16: A.M.
New day dawns. Autumn sun, blue sky, etc. I grow soft and forgiving.

Bridget, bless her, remains the charmingest of heroines. I was rooting for her and Roxter with every text (and living with her through every agonizing cyber-silence). I was suffering with her over each junk-food binge and insecurity crisis. Bridget is the inner wild child harbored by in-control females like me: the over-the-top woman who is always on the verge of escaping into public view.

That’s why we love her, and that’s why her latest escapades, though more retro than radical, are still funny, still touching, and still bloody good fun.

Reviewed by Kathy Weissman on October 25, 2013

Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy
by Helen Fielding

  • Publication Date: June 3, 2014
  • Genres: Fiction, Women's Fiction
  • Paperback: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage
  • ISBN-10: 0345806344
  • ISBN-13: 9780345806345