BRIDGET JONES: MAD ABOUT THE
| The New York Journal of Books - October 10, 2013
Ms. Fielding’s observations of this early stage of middle age are perceptive and
Bridget has finally grown up. Or has she?
Her new “toy boy” may not know the answer, but Helen Fielding does. She takes us on a roller-coaster ride through Bridget’s new and very different life post-Mark Darcy. That’s right: fate has snatched Mark away, and 51-year-old Bridget is left with two young children as she tries to navigate life as a different kind of singleton.
The real surprise here is that Ms. Fielding manages to both move and delight the reader time after time despite the ridiculous level of silliness.
Given the number of cloying, annoying, and unnecessary repetition of certain phrases it would be easy to dismiss this novel as pure fluff. Would Bridget really say “Gaaah!” as often as she did back in her early thirties? And yet for readers of a certain age, Bridget’s woes will strike many familiar chords. Ms. Fielding’s observations of this early stage of middle age are perceptive and accurate.
As the novel opens, Bridget’s life is a mess of child-rearing and employment issues. Gaaah! Mabel and Billy have nits! Gaaah! Her new agent called about her screenplay, but she’s rushing for school pickup. Gaaah! Her young boyfriend wants to come over, but she’ll have to tell him about the lice issue. He’s 29. Would he even know a nit if he saw one?
The only note of rationality comes in the form of Mr. Wallaker, the new sports and music instructor at Billy’s school. Calmly informing Bridget about the nits, he says, “I realize this will cause a National Emergency amongst the north London Mumserati, and their coiffeurs but you simply need to nit-comb them.”
Ms. Fielding creates a wonderful character with Mr. Wallaker, and he becomes a favorite as he weaves in and out of the story, often to Bridget’s embarrassment.
Bridget does things that make one wonder why she hasn’t managed (at her age!) to become a bit more adept in negotiating the world. Loss dimmed her passions for several years, but her friends are determined to get her back on the market for a new mate (or at least a shag).
The struggle of the over-40 set to understand social media is universal, and Bridget’s efforts at online dating and conquering Twitter are hilarious. The problem of drunk texting and assuming Botox will solve everything are only minor obstructions in Bridget’s quest for happiness.
First world problems aside, Ms. Fielding knows how to tug at hearts. As Bridget’s fling with her much younger man comes to its inevitable end, she accepts it with surprising grace:
“It was the first time he had ever mentioned the age difference, apart from jokes about my knees and
teeth. . . It mattered to him, and with that came the elephant in the room.”
Happily, better things await Bridget, and Ms. Fielding gives us just enough to satisfy. Perhaps better still, Ms. Fielding seems to wrap up the possibilities for further adventure with Bridget Jones. Hopefully a new heroine will emerge from Helen Fielding’s pen in the future.