My early adult years were spent with Bridget Jones. As a sixth-former I read her diary in The Independent, snipped out what I thought were particularly witty and pithy quotes and stuck them in my actual diary. I was a student when the first novel came out and I LOVED it. As a single 20-something I re-read it and the sequel Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason though I confess the films did nothing for me. The first one is ok, the second is dreadful (don’t get me started on literary heroines being dumbed down in Hollywood adaptations, I’ll be here all day…).
Anyway, that’s all important because obviously I was very excited about the new Bridget Jones novel, Mad About the Boy, which came out last week. I ran up to Waterstones in my lunch hour proudly brandishing my birthday book vouchers that I’d saved for this very moment. I planned to devour the whole book in one weekend.
And then I read the reviews. Why has she killed off Mark Darcy? They wailed. What grown woman tots up the minutes she spends on Twitter, another grumbled. Sarah Crompton in The Telegraph said it was a “clunking disappointment”. Oh dear.
But you know what, I liked it. I laughed out loud at Bridget’s inability to deal with the other mums at the school gate (familiar, much?), and I loved the moments when she was just being a mum – there is a very sweet episode when she and both children are suffering from a tummy bug. I liked her overwhelming love for the kids and her fear that they wouldn’t remember their dad, and I enjoyed her worries about how much time son Billy spends on his X Box.
I’m not stupid. I can see that Helen Fielding has written this third book with half an eye on the film adaptation. Apparently she rang Colin Firth to warn him she planned to kill off Darcy. There’s a bit in the book where Bridget (who is now a scriptwriter) has a meeting about the potential cast for her film and she thinks ‘they’re just saying names of people who will never be in this film’. I wondered if that was what it was like when Helen Fielding first discussed the adaptation of her novel.
Of course Mr Wallaker is the new Mark, and of course we have to have the comedy Roxster storyline first (he’s the new Daniel Cleaver). There are comedy scenes involving Bridget’s movie producer, and her mum that I can see would make it into the trailer for the film. There are little irritations (who texts during important meetings?). It’s all written to a formula – but it’s still entertaining and a good read.
The last third of the novel, when Bridget was being a ‘proper grown up’ and finding her way to happiness with Mr Wallaker was the best bit. I felt that was when Bridget was being Bridget from the books instead of Bridget from the films – if that makes any sense at all. I liked the newly battered and beaten Daniel, fresh from rehab, and Bridget’s relationship with her widowed mum as they talked about how lonely they were. I liked it when perfect mum Nicolette lost her temper and Bridget helped her.
So, generally, I can understand why the critics criticised. But come on. It’s Bridget. She’s funny. She dances to Killer Queen. She makes me laugh. And I’ve really enjoyed catching up with her again.