I write this review as a huge – and hugely disappointed – fan of the original Bridget Jones books and films. Do not proceed if you don’t want to read any spoilers.
Having just finished reading this book, I am unable to see any reason why Helen Fielding would have chosen to resurrect Bridget other than a desire to make further money from what had been a much-loved character. She should have left her well alone.
When we last saw Bridget, she was in her early thirties and happily setting off into the sunset with Mr Right, the wonderful Mark Darcy. Readers and film-viewers alike are invited to imagine that the couple lived happily ever after – the perfect ending and one that brought the two books to a pleasing conclusion.
Now, I’m no fantasist, and I know as well as anyone that there is no such thing as a fairytale “happily ever after” in real life. But in books and films, I don’t see why there shouldn’t be.
Fast-forward to Mad About the Boy, and we find – to our horror – that Mark Darcy is no more. He’s been blown up by a landmine in the course of his human rights lawyering in Syria or somewhere like that, and Bridget is now a widow, aged 51 and with two very young children. By my calculations that means that she must have had the children improbably late, in her late forties, but this is never explained. She’s now living in a nice house with all financial worries taken care of by her late husband, meaning that she’s free to spend lots of time obsessing over men once more and also dither around writing a screenplay, a modern retelling of a play that she doesn’t even know how to spell the name of or who the playwright is.
I can’t go any further without commenting that killing off Mark Darcy seems a crass plot twist, employed just to be able to put Bridget in the situation of being single again. It’s contrived, and it seems to indicate a complete lack of respect on the part of the author to her fans.
Even worse, and even more contrived, is the fact that Daniel Cleaver is still on the scene. Having magically been forgiven by Mark after his marriage to Bridget, and the two former rivals then becoming best friends, Daniel is the children’s godfather and enjoys an easy-going friendship with Bridget, who’s happy to leave her kids with him despite the fact that he ends up in rehab towards the end of the book. This was implausible, I thought; Cleaver, though undoubtedly an engaging and entertaining character, treated Bridget like crap throughout both the original books, and having had a similar figure in my life years ago, I can certainly say that I wouldn’t speak to the git again, let alone entrust my theoretical children to him.
Bridget’s situation in life is now so far removed from the original Bridget books that I felt it was now irrelevant to me. The book was completely dominated by boring scenes of kids and motherhood, not of any interest to me whatsoever, and the love interest that occupied most of the book was a stereotypical ‘toy boy’ character called “Roxster”, with whom Bridget seemed mostly to have utterly infantile and unfunny conversations about farts and vomit. Pathetic.
While in the original books Bridget only had the phone to worry about, she now has to contend with the multiple channels of modern communication – texting, email, Twitter etc. Many pages of the book are wasted with her unfunny attempts to get to grips with Twitter, which just seemed a contrived effort to try and bring Bridget into the present decade. Much of the charm of the original books was lost as a result, and the updating of the character was an abysmal failure.
I found the book predictable, mostly badly written and always unconvincing, a dreadful attempt to get some extra mileage from what had been a delightful character and a deeply unsatisfying follow-up to the supposed happy ending that brought The Edge of Reason to such a satisfying conclusion.
There’s another happy ending at the end of this one, with Bridget ditching the toy boy and shacking up with her kids’ school teacher, an ex-SAS guy who conveniently happens to have a massive country house (I know, completely implausible). But now that we know that we can’t trust Helen Fielding’s happy endings, one can only assume that we can expect another book at some point in which Mr Wallaker has been run over by a bus and Bridget’s on her own again, obsessing about some other ill-conceived guy who isn’t a patch on Mark Darcy.