Behold the return of Bridget! Helen Fielding’s loveable fictional heroine is back after a 14-year hiatus. The wine-quaffing, chain-smoking, blundering, blubbering singleton captured our hearts when she burst – or should that be staggered – onto the scene. Mad About the Boy reflects that time difference. She’s 51. With two kids and – shock horror – without her Prince Charming! Yep, much to the chagrin of many females the world over, Mark Darcy is DEAD. Nooooo! *Holds hands up to cheeks* How could this be? It will never be the same…etc etc
Right. Wipe your tears away. Having just finished the book, this is not only a brave move by Fielding. It’s the right one. The first Bridget book depicted the ditzy protagonist muddling her way through life, one catastrophe after another. As did the second. So isn’t it only fair that this should continue in a similar vein, rather than Mrs Darcy turning into one of the ‘smug married’ couples she so detested?
The Bridget Jones juggernaut is such because her high hopes, fateful fears, soaring triumphs and crushing defeats are so relatable. It works because through all disasters (of which there are many!) she retains her sense of humour. Her endearing, ever-optimistic outlook gives us something to hold on to. And it feels real. It doesn’t leave us decrying the unattainable, as depicted in so many wishy-washy, ubiqitous and uber-romanticised tales that we find cluttering up the coffee table.
With Mark Darcy out of the equation we get to see character progression once again. And let’s face it, had he still been around, how would Fielding have developed Bridget? Her life would have been too perfect. By making her a widow, Fielding can play around with plot. A toyboy, a night out in far-too-tight jeans, the trials and tribulations of (single) parenthood, and the challenges of Twitter.
Now, to one character inclusion that I wasn’t too keen on. Despite loving Daniel Cleaver in the previous books and films, I felt Mad About the Boy could have done without him. It’s also hard to believe that he would still be in Bridget’s life, not only as a friend, but as godfather to her children.
Amidst the humour, Fielding cleverly injects doses of poignancy. Bridget crying as her son sings in the Christmas carol concert. The owl in the garden. Father’s Day cards. Fielding has her pulse firmly on the here-and-now. She’s moved her main character to where she needs to be, simultaneously ramping up the mileage in the Bridget brand. Which is a brilliant one, by the way. I, like many other women, have grown up with this character and her adventures. And although I’m still a fair few years off Bridget’s age, it hits home. Why? Identification. Bridget could be you or me. On the school run with ripped tights and a food-stained top, looking enviously at the effortless ‘yummy mummies’ with their perfect children with ingenious names like Bikram and Thelonius. Slyly slugging from a bottle of Sauvignon on the back stairs when no-one’s watching. Preparing a series of nasty text messages, on the off chance that the boyfriend who’s dumped her decided to get in touch again.
Will a film follow? Having thoroughly enjoyed the previous two, I wonder if Mad About the Boy would translate as well on the big screen, especially without the dashing Mark Darcy. However, I suspect Hollywood producers are already selecting the shortlist of hot shots who can play the new characters. Undoubtedly though, the star that will shine the brightest is that one that always has. Bridget Jones.