Tuesday, 20 May 2014


First, a proviso. I am, on the whole, pro-Bridget Jones. I liked the newspaper column, I liked the first book, I even liked the first film. Through, Bridget, Helen Fielding was at the vanguard of a certain sort of female writing; the first to say out loud that it was OK not to be perfect. To be a bit flakey, to f*ck it up occasionally. And, in the beginning, she was a blessed relief.

The trouble is, Bridget and the many millions who followed in her Chardonnay-splattered wake spawned an industry, and one that's turned out to be pretty insidious. An industry that thrives on telling women they should have concentrated less on their careers and more on finding a man. They should count more calories, drink less units and generally dumbs us down. Don't be too good at your job, it says, or you may live to regret it. If you find a vaguely decent man, grab him or ditto. Don't leave it too late, or... You get the picture.

Into this world, where the career woman is the bogey woman du jour, comes Mad About The Boy aka Bridget 3. As is very well-documented by now, Bridget is a 51-year-old single mum, with two children (Billy, 7, mini-Mark and Mabel, 5, mini-Bridget) and no happy ever after. Or even any after 'happy ever after'. Mark Darcy has been dead five years (I won't tell you how, but you won't die of shock when you find out) and Bridget's long-suffering friends (Tom, Jude, Talitha and, of course, Daniel - no Shazza, Shazza has f*cking well married a dot com genius and f*cked off to Silicon Valley) are trying to get Bridge back in the saddle both sexually and professionally. Cue, the first two boxes ticked: toyboy and screenplay.

The trouble is, Mad About The Boy often feels all about ticking boxes.

Nits - tick
Blow dries - tick
Brazilians - tick
Internet dating - tick
Mother going on cruises and living it up in a retirement community - tick
Twitter - tick, tick tick

Fielding has always excelled at social observation and she does so again here. The sections, for instance, on twitter insecurity are laugh out loud funny. On the other hand, some of the descriptions of technology, in particular, read as if written for aliens observing our curious little planet from afar: "the thing about twitter is..."

I hate to say it, but the fundamental problem with Mad About The Boy is Bridget herself. Despite having lived through bereavement and brought up two children single-handed for five years - two children who are easily the most convincing, funny, endearing characters in the book - she is, if anything, more emotionally inauthentic (to quote Tom, now a therapist obsessed with boutique hotels) than ever. (In one massively unconvincing scene she texts her way through a crucial business meeting; in fact, she does it twice.)

You know the cliché about wanting the wisdom and confidence of your 40something self in your 20something body? Well, I hate to say it, but Bridget misread the instructions. She may now have the body of a 51-year-old, but sadly her brain is still 25.

I don't blame Fielding for writing it, or her publishers for wanting her to, and I'm sure it will sell. But like The Hangover and Pirates of the Caribbean, Bridget Jones 3 might be a sequel too far.

Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy by Helen Fielding, is out in paperback on 19 June. 

(This piece was first published on Bazaar on Books blog www.harpersbazaar.co.uk, 11 October 2013)

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