Book Review: Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy, by Helen Fielding

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Title: Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy

Author: Helen Fielding

Genre: Fiction, Chick Lit, Romance, Comedy

First Published: 2013

Pages: 390

There is a lot to be said about Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy—most of them, good things. I had loved Helen Fielding’s first and second offerings, Bridget Jones’s Diary and Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, so it shouldn’t really come as a surprise that I would be a fan of Fielding’s third “Bridget” book. But to be honest, it was a big surprise that I liked it at all. Here’s a tiny confession: ever since I heard it was out, I had done my best to avoid reading Mad About the Boy. I was convinced it would be a major let down. But when my best friend got me this book for the holidays, I knew it was time to finally have a sit-down with dear ol’ Jonesey.

The reason for my reluctance to read the novel was that, like most fans, I had heard about its major spoiler long before the book became available in nearby bookstores. In The Edge of Reason, we had left Bridget in what felt like a “happily ever after” scenario with Mark Darcy. The way things were going for the lovebirds, it seemed like their domestic spats would consist of petty jealousies, Bridget’s hyperactive imagination, disagreements on child-rearing—all the good quarrels associated with a healthy marriage. And, like most readers, I would’ve been perfectly happy reading about these things. It would’ve been gratifying even, to find the two in the midst of saccharine normalcy. But instead, we find out that Mark Darcy’s gone—done away in a ‘blaze of glory’ or in a rather gruesome manner, depending on how you look at things.

I had wanted to ask Helen Fielding, “Now why would you do that?” It just seemed cruel to get half the population of women, (a gross exaggeration, I know), to fall in love with a male lead only to kill him off immediately after a fairy tale ending. And the questions kept coming. “Isn’t Bridget Jones supposed to be a modern-day retelling of Pride & Prejudice? How can you have Elizabeth without Mr. Darcy?” But that’s the sad premise of Mad About the Boy. And the book starts off with Bridget, once again, trying to find love in a horridly superficial and ageist world.

It’s 5 years after Mark’s death, and Bridget’s 51 with two young kids to look after. Though Mark had made sure that their family was well-provided for, Bridget is left struggling to stay sane while trying out a new career as a scriptwriter, attempting to keep her children well-fed and not raised purely by technology or Sponge Bob, and of course, shedding her dismal add-on poundage and “Born-Again virginity.”

The first problem, she tackles by creating a modern script for Hedda Gabbler by Anton Chekhov. (To you, dear literatus, I know. It’s part of the fun, really.) At the start of the novel, Bridget gets a call from her agent, saying her latest script is ready for film adaptation. This turns out to be an exceedingly humorous, and at times, embarrassing experience for Jonesey. Unfortunately, it also serves as a prop for the novel—at times, completely forgotten, as Bridget goes on her usual love-centric existence.

The second situation, I’ll have to say, is the heart of the story. Though one may doubt it sometimes, due to Bridget’s laughable thoughts and whims, our lovable heroine has certainly grown up some since the last book. Her love for her children, Billy (a mini-Mark) and Mabel, is palpable throughout the novel. She does well as a single mother; though not without the help of her perfect babysitter, Chloe, the children’s ‘fun’ godfather, Daniel Cleaver (Yes, *that* Daniel!), and the odd, aloof, and admittedly Daniel Craig-esque sports teacher, Mr. Wallaker.

And lastly, Bridget overcomes her third problem with the help of her ever-hip and ever-reliable posse of Tom, Jude, and Talitha. Sharon, the feminist of the original group, has since moved to the United States after marrying her successful dot.com husband. With the help of her three friends, a touch of Botox, and the diet plan of the local Obesity Clinic, Bridget manages to once again bring out her “wanton sex goddess” side.

Her amusing foray on social media, particularly Twitter, also leads her to the handsome boy-toy, which the reader meets at the start of the book. Roxster is, as his handle suggests, quite the rockstar in the bedroom and in real life—if you can categorize smokin’ hot, 30-year-old environmentalists as real-life rockstars (which I do!). Despite the raging chemistry between the two, Jonesey still finds herself in the midst of heartbreak and self-doubt. But that’s to be expected. This is, after all, Bridget Jones we’re talking about. In the end though, she does find what she’s looking for—a lasting love with a great father-figure for her kids. Though the introduction of this ‘great love’ is quite abrupt, it does work in a multitude of levels. At the very least, it’s a good way to tie up what would’ve been a gloomy story.

The Verdict: a well-deserved A.

Now, the rest of my two cents. Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy is a feel-good novel that has enough laugh-out-loud moments to keep you turning the page, despite Mark Darcy’s depressing exit. Again, I really don’t agree with killing Mark off just to create a story. I believe that a marriage offers a wealth of ‘stories’ on its own. And no matter how greatly written her new love interests are, there’s simply no replacing Mark Darcy.

But, and this is quite a big BUT, that’s also what I loved about the book. Helen Fielding’s treatment of Mark’s death—with Bridget’s private grieving, particularly in that scene with her mother—left me in tears at least a couple of times. Mark is gone and he is missed. There are no over-the-top dramatics with Bridget, but you do acutely feel her loss. And the new men in her life aren’t Mark, nor are they designed to replace Mark. They are there to show that there is life after a loved one’s death. That, like most women in her situation, Bridget has had to move on, no matter how difficult the process was.

In the end, I do believe this is the type of story worth recommending to all fans of the Bridget Jones series.

4 thoughts on “Book Review: Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy, by Helen Fielding

  1. I think writers in general really struggle with the day in day out of a long happy marriage. It’s so much easier to write and (sell) the magical moments and the emotional highs and lows of new love.

    I might borrow from the library. 🙂

    1. That’s a very good point you’ve raised there. 🙂 Cinematically, it would work. But how it translates in fiction, that may be a problem, especially since Bridget’s all about grand gestures and falling in love… But I was thinking along the lines of Nick Hornby–“Juliet Naked” and “How to Be Good.” Insert the dramatic elements into the fold to create turmoil, but don’t kill off a main character… I don’t know, I’m too invested. 🙂 I highly recommended reading it–whether from the library or from a friend. Thanks for the comment!

  2. I just wanted to say thanks for this review because it perfectly mirrors my (somewhat conflicted and slightly traitorous) feelings. I was very upset to learn in advance of the release that Mark Darcy was no more, but I gave the book a chance and really liked it despite that fact. From a writer’s perspective, I can understand not wanting to re-hash the same old love triangle, wanting to do something with a little more depth and complexity (especially as she is a writer who is no longer in her mid-thirties); from a reader’s perspective, dammit, I wanted to see the trials and tribulations of every day life.

    Ms Fielding was quoted repeatedly in the press during her book tour that the happy ending only depended on where the author decided to end the story, and I find myself agreeing. (Adding to this that my father died on the same day of the UK book release… watching Bridget work through her grief helped me a bit with my own.)

    As an aside, I have no doubt that she was more than aware of how her fans would react. I saw her in Seattle, she recognized my Twitter name* when I introduced myself during Q&A, and she blurted, regarding Mark, “I thought you were gonna kill me!” (Not literally, of course.)

    (* I don’t know if you were aware but back in 2011 she launched a twitter account for Bridget (@bridgetjoneshf) as well as twitter accounts for Mark and Daniel, which interacted with users–and it was hilarious and fun!–but the point, I think, at which she decided to go the MATB route, conversation/interaction trailed off.)

    Anyway, thanks again.

    1. Hello, thank you for the thorough and lovely comment. I didn’t know about the Twitter pages, actually. But thanks for the info. I really admire Ms. Fielding for sticking with her decidedly unpopular decision. I also love how Bridget came across as ‘real’ in every page. That being said, I’m sorry to hear about your father. And I hope you’re doing well.

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