Helen Fielding: MAD ABOUT THE BOY

Mad About the Boy by Helen Fielding
Bridget Jones #3
Knopf Canada 2013
336 pages
4/5 stars

I was very suspicious of this new Bridget Jones book, but figured I should read it, since I believe there is an adaptation of it coming, and you never know whether this is my only chance to read a Bridget Jones before seeing it. My main suspicion was that the format would not work anymore, and that Fielding’s heroine just couldn’t enchant today as she did in the late 90s and early 2000s. These hesitations, however, were quickly proven wrong, and I enjoyed the book enormously.

(A fairly MAJOR SPOILER. It comes up very early in the novel, and I found it good to know before reading, but I want to warn you anyway.)

Bridget Darcy’s husband Mark died five years ago, leaving her a single mother of two. Yup, you read that right, Mark Darcy is dead. To be honest, that’s the only way this book could exist and Mark remain the lovely character he is – I don’t think I could have taken it if they’d divorced or something. (Not that I’m glad he’s dead, but you know.)

I really didn’t think this could work, but it does, quite fantastically. Bridget is herself, which is rather essential in this series. Her mothering leaves a lot to be desired, and I find her inability to be anywhere on time and her inability to concentrate on what needs to be done a little jarring, but then again, I know people who are like that, and it’s believable, even though it’s not who I am. She’s struggling with a screenplay, something I think a lot of writers will find particularly amusing and relatable – all the procrastination! – as well as the modern challenges of social media and online dating. And I don’t think she would be Bridget if she didn’t worry about her weight and looks in general.

The thing is, I absolutely love Bridget Jones books. Every time I look at them I think, no, I don’t think I can relate to this, and then I start reading, and I’m just absolutely enamoured. Especially her struggling with her diet and exercise is relatable to me, and I can laugh at it, because even though it’s exaggerated, like most of her problems, they are also true. In this book in particular she gets on Twitter, and oh gosh, people, it’s hilarious! As a millennial I can’t fully relate to the struggle of understanding how social media platforms work, but I can imagine that it might be like that, and it’s just endlessly amusing.

This book is also about dealing with grief – after Mark’s passing Bridget is lost and needs to find her feet again. Towards the end of the book she starts to find peace, even in the face of some harsh realities she’s been unable to face earlier, and that I also find important. There’s peace after turmoil.

My only complaint about this book is that it’s a little too similar in structure to Bridget Jones’s Diary, and I would have liked a little more uncertainty about how it was going to end – but I’m not displeased. After all, the plot itself isn’t what’s important, but Bridget’s character development, and the events of everyday life. I think it is the romance reader in me that is slightly disappointed – mind you, not all THAT disappointed, because Fielding does a very creditable job – but the part that is learning to be a chick lit reader is just thrilled.

If you have reservation about this book, don’t. Bridget is still Bridget, even in the 2010s, and she is as charming as ever. The four-star rating is only because of the plot; had there been just one more twist, it would have been a five-star read. As it is, I devoured it in a couple of sittings.

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