Bonkers About Bridget:

An evening with Helen Fielding,

creator of an icon - October 12, 2013



Helen Fielding and Sue MacGregor: two of the greats of their respective fields, but the real star of the evening was Helen’s creation, Bridget Jones, firmly present in the hearts and imaginations of the audience. Clearly Ms Jones had entered the psyche of most of the women in the room, and they adored her, were inspired by her, and in many cases, simply felt they WERE her.

It was the question and answer session that unleashed the Bridget-worship. To fumble the microphone was to have ‘a Bridget moment’. To address Helen herself caused grown women to gush. “I want to thank you for creating Bridget Jones,” breathed one questioner, looking so glossy and eye-lashy that comparing herself to Bridget seemed to be rather modest. “My mother spent all of the nineties telling everyone that I AM Bridget, which is why I never had any boyfriends in my twenties’.

A confessional from another woman, who wanted very much to tell Helen that she had resisted reading about Bridget, year after year, until finding herself at a loose end and reluctantly picking up Bridget Jones’s Diary, only to find herself ‘falling off the sofa with laughter,’ recognising herself and her friends within Bridget’s wincingly funny antics.


Things became heated when the last question had been promised to one woman, but the microphone fell into the hands of the wrong person. “But I’ve got the mike!” declared the Wrong Person, with a look in her eyes that meant no one was going to try to take it off her. “Would Bridget have had the same experiences in London now as she had in the 1990s”, the Wrong Person wondered, clearly seeing Bridget in her own shoes. Pretty much, yes, was Helen’s answer to that. Email, mobile phones, texting, Facebook and Twitter have all arrived on the scene since the days when Bridget was ‘messaging’ Daniel Cleaver on an office intra-mail system about the existence or otherwise of her skirt. Bridget’s everywoman appeal makes it easy to forget that back in the mid-nineties – twenty years ago – social networks depended on the telephone and its answer-machine. However, Bridget’s close circle of supportive friends would have remained the same, even if these days they would have tweeted each other, rather than picking up the telephone.

Then the Right Person got to ask the final question: how does one write in a comic voice? As an aspiring writer, the Right Person very much wanted to but had tried and so far failed. Sue helped Helen out with that one: you’ve either got it or you haven’t, and Helen very much has it.




‘Mad About the Boy’ is Helen Fielding’s third Bridget Jones novel, and it quickly becomes clear that Ms Jones, now Mrs Darcy, is in a rather different place in her life from where we left her at the end of ‘The Edge of Reason’.

That Bridget is now a fifty-one year old widow and mother of two young children comes as a shock: Mark Darcy died five years beforehand, and Bridget, our dear friend, is to be found plunged into a grief so deep, so raw, that it’s hard to imagine how she can ever emerge from it.

The twin, humourless miseries of grief and loneliness are unexpected and poignant. A glimpse of the years we have missed is provided by references to the ‘large house in Holland Park’, where the lovely Mark Darcy had hired a chef to cook for them on Christmas Day.   The episode with the children coming home from school with their hand-made Fathers’ Day Cards, addressed to ‘Daddy, Heaven, Space,’ and ceremoniously posted, with Bridget wondering whether the postman will be traumatised, is almost unbearable to read.

Above all, however, this book is the story of Bridget emerging from the darkness, and it is the gorgeous but much younger Roxby McDuff, aka  Roxster, who sets her on her way.   Cautious dating, miscommunications, wobbles and lots of fun culminate in Bridget’s triumphant appearance at a party, escorted by Roxster, whose charm, youth and rugged allure stuns her friends, and who caps all of this by diving into the pool to rescue a Chihuahua.

“A gentleman to the last”, notes Bridget.  Roxby is  handsome, intelligent, kind, funny and saves small dogs from drowning – but Bridget was ‘twenty-three when he was born,’ and inevitably he drunkenly gives himself away by wishing out loud that he had a time machine.  The age-gap was never going to work, and Bridget ruefully but without rancour lets him go.

But what of Bridget’s previous love interest, Daniel Cleaver?  How on earth Mark Darcy had gone from fighting him in the water at the Serpentine Gallery to accepting him as godfather to his children, Fielding doesn’t make clear.  Very sweetly, however, Daniel has dedicated himself to helping the widowed Bridget, although his comedy characteristics of lechery and debauched drunkenness turn out to have a much more serious undertone.

Meanwhile, the spirit of Mark Darcy has not gone away, but is now evoked by the apparently sneering, snooty Mr Wallaker, Bridget’s small son’s teacher.  His curt yet knowingly mocking manner reminds us of Fielding’s and Jane Austen’s Mr Darcies.  In his glamourous white shirt at the school concert he reminds us of Colin Firth playing Mr Darcy in the famous Pride and Prejudice  adaptation: a confection of the two Mr Darcies combined, as Colin Firth of course played Mark Darcy in the Bridget Jones movies.

You were misunderstood by Bridget at first, weren’t you Mr Wallaker…*purrs*… but didn’t you turn out to be… just… perfect…

The sad parts of ‘Mad About the Boy’ were so desperately poignant that I found my eyes brimming over, and the funny bits so jaunty that they elicited a spontaneous chuckle.  Bridget is the old friend we love to bits, who takes us along on her journey, the type whose antics are fodder for coffee-shop gossip (“A toyboy! Neat vodka at sportsday!”) yet for whom we only want the very, very best.

This is classic Bridget Jones, and I suspect that the most appreciative readers will be Bridget’s fellow-travellers, who have loved her and lived like her since she was a thirty-something singleton in the Nineties.