torsdag 14 augusti 2014

The return of Bridget

Weight: who's counting? Number of tight jeans: approx. 12, number of ultra-synthetic ice-cream lollies eaten so far: 0 (ha!), number of ice-cream lollies will have eaten before bed-time: 2 (bad), number of vaguely Höx-like cute men in Borgen series three: 1, number of vaguely Höx-like cute men with any interest in women whatsoever: 0 (huh).

Right. Must blog about newest Bridget Jones book Mad about The Boy as have not blogged for ages, also as owe duty to readers who have heard about it but been scared off by bad reviews. Must stress readability of book, preferably moving on to philosophical discussion about whether people really change or (like Bridget) stay exactly the same whether thirty-three or fifty-one. Hmmm. Maybe I'll just have one ice cream first.

Yes, Bridget's back, and she's instantly recognisable: same accident-proneness, same staccato diary style (which is v. catching). Many reviewers seemed to think that she was a little too recognisable. After all, the Bridget in Mad About the Boy is fifty-one years old. After so many years, two kids and a traumatising bereavement, shouldn't she have, well, matured a little?

I can see their point to some extent. The story-line where Bridget is writing a modern screenplay adaptation of Hedda Gabler called Wine Leaves in His Hair while not knowing how the play's spelled (she calls it Hedda Gabbler) nor that it was written by Ibsen (she thinks it was Chekhov) is pretty silly. If she knows the plot and the line about wine leaves, it stands to reason that she should know other basic facts - and besides, would her first step before writing a screenplay not be to google the play? Otherwise, though, I'm OK with Bridget's bumblingness. One, I really don't think people change that much: if you're bumbling at thirty-three, chances are you'll still be at it twenty years later, though you might be able to hide it better. Two, the starting point of the Bridget diaries is that they record what she actually does think and feel at a given time, rather than reflecting the more sophisticated version of herself that she would like others to see. Your immediate reaction to Twitter followers (or lack of them), dating problems or school mums who seem too good to be true may well be childish whatever your age. Only, these reactions are usually kept to yourself. Bridget's diaries are completely uncensored, and that's why she can come across as a bit of a dope. You identify with her, while at the same time feeling a bit superior ("well, I'm not quite as ditzy as that at any rate") which makes for a very pleasing reading experience.

I don't think Helen Fielding has lost her sparkle: I wolfed down the novel in just a few days. Once I even read it while breakfasting, instead of the morning papers, which normally never happens (books are simply not designed for breakfast). Fielding's light touch is as enjoyable as ever and yes, with time, this reader - like Bridget - got over the fact that Fielding has killed off Mark Darcy in order to involve Bridget in new dating scenarios. The set-up reminded me a little of the killing-off of Matthew in Downton: although that was due to the defection of Stevens, it has had the same effect on Lady Mary's love life as Mark Darcy's untimely demise (eventually) has on Bridget's. In both cases, killing the poor girls' Mr Right was the only way they'd ever be made to look at another man. I half expected Bridget to see the parallel and mope in consequence (she's a Matthew fan), but no, she seems to have lived through the Christmas special of 2012 unscathed.

There's a welcome return of characters from the other Bridget books, including Daniel Cleaver who, I'm pleased to report, was eventually reconciled to Mark. There are heart-warming references to events and exchanges in the Bridget Jones films: here's one author who's so fine with the film adaptations of her books that she's actually made them part of book Bridget's universe. All right, she had a hand with the screenplays, but even so - that's not an attitude you see every day.

What's not to like? Mad About the Boy is the perfect read if, like me, you're back at work after the holidays and need a pick-me-up in novel form. This is probably the last we see of Bridget, but I hope Fielding comes up with a new beguiling franchise soon. What happened to the (admittedly somewhat too perfect) Olivia Joules?