Bridget Jones is back, with a
thud and without Mark Darcy
Apoorva Dutt | Firstpost - October 31, 2013
in the 15th century, English morality plays introduced the character of
Everyman, an average dude who was meant to represent literally every
man. It took till the 20th century to come up with a female equivalent
and when she surfaced, it was in a genre that was very unlike the
morality play even though it too dealt with ideals.
Helen Fielding’s Bridget Jones is one woman that every woman can
identify with, it seems. Fielding took everything embarrassing about the
inner lives of women – obsessive calorie-counting, the fear of being
alone forever, having a drink too many sometimes, making asses of
ourselves at work – and made it endearing and humorous. Bridget’s
story reassured us that no matter how messy our singleton lives were, we
would find someone who would tell us “I like you – just the way you
are,” and he’d be as delicious as Mark Darcy.
At the end of the second book, Bridget Jones had, after much tumult
involving an emotiona f*ckwit and a Thai prison, finally found a happy
ending with Darcy. As chicklit goes, our heroine had reached the end of
What more was there to say about her?
Apparently, quite a bit. Bridget
Jones: Mad About The Boy, picks up some 15 years later. In the
interim, Bridget has gotten married, had two children, and been widowed.
Yes, much to the dismay of fans all around the world, Mark Darcy is
In an ending befitting a modern Austenian hero, he died tragically in
the Sudan while negotiating for the release of hostages. Howls of “How
could you do this Helen?!” aside, it makes sense that Fielding got rid
of Darcy. Bridget wouldn’t be Bridget if she wasn’t looking for
love. A divorce would just not befit a sensible character like Darcy. So
he had to die. (Fingers crossed Darcy appears in the eventual movie
version in flashbacks.)
Mad About the Boy opens four and a half years after his death, when
Bridget is ready to make tentative steps into normalcy. She’s still
good ole Bridget – busy anguishing over her weight, age and now,
Twitter followers. She hates being called middle-aged, and is horrified
by the rolls of fat that have appeared since childbirth. “Because of
my age, my entire middle section has refused to go back like it was and
all my intestines are flobbering about, uncontained. No wonder they are
hanging over my black sweat pants like porridge,” she moans in one
Bridget joins a weight loss program, loses weight and buys better
clothes, under her friends’ close supervision. “With a slip, you can
show off your arms and legs and décolletage, which are always the last
to go, but keep the central area — which we might want to gloss over
— glossed over,” one advises when Bridget panics about being naked.
(By the way, Bridget’s gay friend Tom is now obsessed with Gwyneth
Paltrow and remains endlessly hilarious. Is it too much to expect a
All this is, predictably, to prime Bridget for her manhunt. But at 51,
it turns out to be even more complicated than when she was a
In the earlier Bridget Jones books, there were two men vying for her
attention: Mark Darcy – good, dependable, and somehow still hot as
hell – and Daniel Cleaver – irresponsible, charming,
commitment-phobic “f*ckwit”, to quote Bridget and her friends. In
the new book, Daniel is still around, but he’s not one of the three
men pursuing Bridget.
One is a leather-clad clubber who rejects Bridget conclusively when she
tells him she hasn’t had sex in four and a half years. Bridget
doesn’t help her case with him when, as part of a pre-coital
conversation, she asks if he would please call her back and meet her in
case they do have sex.
Bachelor number two is Roxster, a 30-something whom Bridget adores.
However, she worries that he might resent being deployed as her
The third is a parody of a Mills & Boons Mr. Right – a wounded war
hero with a kind heart who is terribly mean to Bridget for over 300
pages before abruptly kissing her.
I’ll let you guess with whom she ends up.
The romance in the new book works when Fielding writes about the
effortless chemistry between Roxster and Bridget. It’s not about
making any larger statement about older women and younger men; Roxster
and Bridget just get on really well. Their conversations are humorous,
and bits like when Bridget is waiting for a text reply are both familiar
and hilarious: “Texts from Roxster: 0. Times checked phone for text
from Roxster: 4,287.” When the reality of their age gap sets in, there
is a sense of real loss. Of course, it isn’t long before the
impossibly awesome Mr. Right appears to pick up the pieces.
Bridget is still goofy and Fielding still has her trademark razor-sharp
insight packaged with an even sharper sense of humour. But the
storytelling stumbles repeatedly in Mad
About The Boy. Darcy pops in and out like Casper the friendly ghost
and he’s too obvious a device. The memories of her dead husband never
seem to impact Bridget beyond that moment in the plot that needs a touch
of melodrama. The children also dart in and out of the narrative like
cuckoo clock birds.
One of the brighter moments of the novel is when Bridget’s mother –
a force of nature, as fans will remember from the earlier books –
finally breaks out of her “Keep Buggering On” facade and admits to
her daughter that she misses her own deceased husband. They hug and cry
about their loneliness (“It was the first time I’d actually felt
Mum’s bouffe,” relates Bridget). The evolution of the mother and
daughter relationship is one point where Fielding gets it exactly right
without becoming maudlin.
It’s a good ending to Bridget Jones’ life as we know it. We know
we’re leaving her happier and at peace. But there is something
melancholic about the book; it’s shadowed by age, death, addiction and
compromise. When Bridget visits Daniel in rehab (he’s now an
alcoholic), she mulls over how as you get older, you realise that you
just have to accept people the way they are. This acceptance of life is
a far cry from the sense of optimisim that the younger Bridget had. But
that’s just the reality of her life. However, what kept all of us
hooked on Bridget was Fielding’s ability to seem realistic while
spinning a modern fairy tale. With Mad
About The Boy, those dreams are over and Bridget Jones has landed
upon real life, with an uncomfortable thud.