Mad About the Boy, By Helen Fielding. Jonathan Cape, £18.99 or at a discounted price from The Independent Bookshop
First look review: Bridget Jones returns in Mad About the Boy, By Helen Fielding
Old tricks and new comforts in Fielding’s fantasy of consolation
Boyd Tonkin is Senior Writer and a columnist at The Independent. An award-winning journalist, he was formerly Literary Editor at The Independent, and before that Social Policy Editor and then Books Editor at the New Statesman magazine. He has broadcast extensively for BBC arts and current affairs programmes and has judged the Booker Prize, the Whitbread biography award, the Commonwealth Writers Prize and the David Cohen Prize. In 2001, he re-founded the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize for literature in translation, and serves on its judging panel every year.
Monday 07 October 2013
When not cavorting with her already-famous toy boy, the “gorgeous and peach-like” Roxby McDuff (aka the Roxster), 51-year-old widow Mrs Bridget Darcy tries her hand at screenwriting. She plans an update of the play she calls Hedda Gabbler, which she imagines Anton Chekhov wrote, but relocated to Queens Park.
Get this book at the discounted price of £14.99 from The Independent Bookshop or call 0843 0600 030
Greenlight Productions even shows an interest in her film. However, Bridget’s agent Brian Katzenberg has to let her down gently: “The themes are fascinating but they want more of a rom-com feel.” Plus, if possible, a setting not in NW6 but on a flash yacht in Hawaii.
Many a true word… As the sturdy Bridget standbys (the to-do lists, the self-reproach, the calculated calories, the media and showbiz parodies) mesh with the pitfalls and pratfalls of mid-life dating in the age of Twitter, texts and Match.com, this third selection from her diaries tears down the middle.
On one side stands the dark-hued comedy of loneliness and grief; on the other, upbeat fantasias of merry widowhood afloat on the social-media cloud. You can see just why Fielding has killed off Mark Darcy on a mission to Darfur, five years before the plot kicks off in 2012. Bridget’s “romantic and original” status as a widow, with little Billy and Mabel left well provided for by ever-prudent Mark, relieves Bridget of everyday worries. It also sidesteps the potential bitterness and disillusion of divorce.
Fielding fashions the helicopter-parent school-gate satire among “over-educated SUV mums” pretty smartly (“Vodka is NOT a good idea for Sports Day, Bridget”). Yet you sense that some of this material has strayed in from another novel – just as the movie-biz absurdities, right down to a sulky starlet called Ambergris Bilk, have an almost early-Martin-Amis tinge. Some readers have already complained about Mrs Darcy’s charmed if desolate life, with the kids’ nits (a running, or rather scratching, joke) more of an anxiety than bills or jobs. You might as well ask to see Sherlock Holmes’s bank statements or check the original Mr Darcy’s grocery budget. Like the Queen, fictional icons and archetypes don’t have to carry cash – but they do have to speak to their readers’ dreams and dreads.
In the former category, the 29-year-old Roxster supplies that “rom-com feel” with his suave but ribald attentions. Bridget rejoices again in “the ecstasy of being touched after so long by someone so beautiful, so young and so good at it”. It can’t last, of course, and it doesn’t. As Bridget muses after a brace of Big Macs washed down with a chocolate shake: “When he’s hot, he’s hot; when he’s not, he’s not; but at least there’s always food.” Never mind: a hunkier saviour waits in the wings, much closer to home than the oddballs’ “sweetie shop” of the dating websites.
From time to time, Mad About the Boy drops, or soars, to another level. Bridget’s bittersweet days with Mabel and Billy focus an unaffected – and unexpected – tenderness. And when Fielding wants to open the locked box of bereavement, she can: “Oh the loneliness – the profiles giving away the months or maybe years of heartbreak and disappointment and insult.”
Then the kitsch glamour of that posh yacht in Hawaii – or, in Bridget’s case, an idyllic Christmas carol concert with a hero much “like Russell Crowe in Gladiator” – distracts us. Grief and despair fade like a hangover, the consoling fantasy assures us. A new chapter in the fairy tale can begin.
The best TV shows and films coming to the servicetv
Watch the new House of Cards series three trailerTV
Oscars 2015It was the first time Barney has compered the Academy Awards
Oscars 2015 From Meryl Streep whooping Patricia Arquette's equality speech to Chris Pine in tears
Oscars 2015 Mexican filmmaker uses speech to urge 'respect' for immigrants
TV ReviewThe intrigue deepens as we delve further but don't expect any answers just yet
Razzies 2015 Golden Raspberry Awards 'honours' Cameron Diaz and Kirk Cameron
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 End of the licence fee: BBC to back radical overhaul of how it is funded
- 2 This restaurant has misunderstood the concept of 'cheese and biscuits'
- 3 Raif Badawi, the Saudi Arabian blogger sentenced to 1,000 lashes, may now face death penalty
- 4 Delhi bus rapist blames dead victim for attack because 'girls are responsible for rape'
- 5 PornHub turns masturbation into energy in bid to save the planet
Game of Thrones season 5 spoilers: What we can expect according to George RR Martin's books
Spectre: Director Sam Mendes teases clips from upcoming James Bond movie
Indian Summers recommissioned: Channel 4 confirm a second series of British Empire drama
Fifty Shades of Grey movie shows first sex scene 'after 40 minutes'
The Casual Vacancy finale review: Superb cast, luscious cinematography - shame about the confused ending
New theory could prove how life began and disprove God
This is what it's like to be dead, according to a guy who died for a bit
End of the licence fee: BBC to back radical overhaul of how it is funded
'Jihadi John': CAGE representative storms off Sky News accusing Kay Burley of Islamophobia
Ukip would cut billions from Scottish budget to fund English tax cuts
Nearly 100,000 of Britain's poorest children go hungry after parents' benefits are cut