Bonkers About Bridget:
An evening with Helen Fielding,
creator of an icon
- October 12, 2013
MAD ABOUT THE BOY: HELEN FIELDING AND SUE MACGREGOR IN CONVERSATION, CECIL SHARPE HOUSE, THURSDAY 10 OCTOBER, IN AID OF PRIMROSE HILL COMMUNITY LIBRARY.
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
REVIEW: MAD ABOUT THE BOY
by HELEN FIELDING
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…
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