I really hated starting this book after I’d seen Entertainment Weekly‘s major plot spoiler in a headline on its homepage, with no spoiler alert or option to have the spoiler revealed only to readers who click on the article. Up to that point, I’d avoided all of Helen Fielding’s interviews and was happily clueless, awaiting the return of Bridget Jones.
So, if you hadn’t heard about the bomb Fielding dropped and intend to read the book, I’ll warn you there will be SPOILERS in this review. I wasn’t going to include any but it’s hard to discuss the story without revealing the Very Big Deal.
Stop now if you don’t want to know.
Last chance to bail.
OK, Bridget is now 51 and a mother of two grade-school-aged children, Billy and Mabel. She’s also a widow. *Sob*. Mark Darcy was killed while on a trip to Darfur, doing his international rights work. (The book starts five years after Mark’s death, but backtracks a year, and then catches up to the current year.) Bridget is getting back into the dating game via different online methods, including Twitter and dating sites. She engages in a relationship with a 29-year-old “toy boy” named Roxby but called Roxster due to his Twitter handle. She juggles this with her single-mum duties and work on her screenplay, a modernization of Hedda Gabler.
It’s good to see Bridget back, nutty as ever, but the humor is tempered by sadness. It’s to Fielding’s credit that she created a character whose absence is deeply felt even in a book where he does not appear. When the children do something wonderful and Bridget wishes Mark were around to witness it, or when it’s late at night and Bridget’s loneliness intensifies, the scenes are poignant.
Fielding doesn’t dwell on the sadness, though. Bridget snaps back to her usual go-getter self, and her pluckiness in the face of adversity is probably one of the reasons readers like her.
But sometimes Bridget—and the author—tries too hard to be funny, as if to entertain a younger audience. There are a lot of fart jokes between Bridget and Roxster. And jokes about syphilis and gonorrhea. And pubic lice and diarrhea and throwing up in your mouth. A couple of the jokes made me chuckle but I did wonder at times if I’d wandered into a Hangover sequel.
The ending is predictable; you’ll most likely spot the person Bridget ends up with right at the beginning. That part is OK because in Bridget Jones’s Diary, it was also obvious right away that she’d end up with Mark.
What I question is how this new man managed to develop the intense feelings he seems to confess to Bridget near the end. Mark had known Bridget since they were both children, so despite only occasional encounters in Diary, it was believable that he could have fallen in love with her somewhere along the way.
In Mad, she has only brief run-ins and limited conversations with this new romantic interest. The two barely know each other so it’s not clear where the feelings come from. It seems he’s into her because she’s such a mess, a damsel in need of rescuing, and that’s not a strong foundation for a relationship.
There’s one thing I’m hoping for if this book gets a movie adaptation. Fielding described Mark in Diary as looking like Colin Firth and the actor ended up playing Mark. In this latest book, she describes Bridget’s love interest as looking like Daniel Craig and Bond-ish. Make it happen for the movie! I’m mad about that boy!
Nerd verdict: Pages 386, pages too long 60 (approx.), issues 2 or 3, overall still good