Jones grows up, sort of
readers still love the madcap singleton when she has two little Darcys
Darcy had to die, of course, so Fielding could maintain the formula that
made the 1995 Bridget Jones’s Diary a
literary sensation that spawned countless imitators. Based loosely on
Jane Austen’s Pride
and Prejudice, the novel ended with Darcy and Bridget snogging; its
sequel, the 1999 Bridget
Jones: The Edge of Reason, concluded
with his marriage proposal. The novels’ humour stemmed from the
gaffe-prone, unsinkable singleton seeking, but not securing, a man.
Fielding likely deduced, shrewdly, that “Bridget Jones, divorcee”
would alienate readers who’d rooted for the heroine’s inevitable
union with Darcy. His demise reboots her as “Bridget Jones, widow,”
a sympathetic character entering the ripe-for-mockery mid-life dating
pool at a time when many Bridget fans are doing the same.
the familiar diary format (in which Bridget obsesses over smoking and
her alcohol and caloric intake) has been updated to include 21st-century
anxieties such as number of Twitter followers and texts received versus
texts sent. Her new focus is navigating the new rules of dating, among
them meticulous waxing and never texting while drunk.
the launch of the new book, Fielding faces challenges similar to her
heroine’s. She’s writing for a market transformed since she left it
in the 1990s—paradoxically due to the seismic effect of Bridget
Jones’s Diary, which
was voted one of the 10 books that defined the 20th century, alongside
George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, in
a Guardian poll.
It’s credited with ushering in “chick lit,” a dismissive term for
a genre focused on single, white, affluent women obsessed with dating,
dieting, shopping and marriage. Chick-lit spawned “mom-lit,” a
terrain crammed with novels and memoirs about mom angst with such titles
as Sippy Cups Are Not for Chardonnay.
Now, ironically, the sequel to Bridget
Jones’s Diary, a book that presaged the popularity of
confessional blogging, will be assessed by mommy bloggers, a tribe
harsher in its judgment than Nuremberg.
apparent strategy is to position Bridget as an accessible fantasy
Everymom—a woman who doesn’t have to work but still shops at Zara.
Darcy left the family well off; a nanny tends to the children; Bridget
flits about, trying to finish her air-head adaptation of Hedda
Gabbler [sic], a
work she believes was written by Anton Chekhov, a mistake that doesn’t
prevent her from landing a film deal. Hovering in the background, as
always, is Daniel Cleaver, now a louche caricature.
course, our Bridget, with all her foibles, prevails. She sheds 40 lb.
(from a high of 178) at an obesity clinic (she cheers up when she
realizes she’s the skinniest one there). That paves the way to “boy
toy” entanglements before inevitable complications. Fielding’s
challenge, a big one, is to age Bridget while not losing her madcap
incompetence—or inviting involvement of child protection services. The
result is a dithering but loving parent who frets more over her
(“skinny jeans, ballet pumps and shirt buttoned up to the collar, and
blazer... plus enormous handbag and sunglasses in manner of a celebrity
at airport”) than being on time.
maternalizing Bridget and ditching Darcy, Fielding is toying with a
beloved blueprint to extend the franchise. What she doesn’t mess with,
wisely, is Bridget’s female Peter Pan-like status as the girly id of a
generation. Whether that will resonate with her older audience remains
to be seen. What’s certain, though, is that it’s going to be
mightily pissed at the prospect of no Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy in the
movie, already in the works.