Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy by Helen Fielding

Book Description from Booklist
It’s been 15 years since readers first met the charmingly insecure Bridget Jones, and 13 since her last adventure in Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason (2000). Bridget is now 51, and, most readers will be chagrined to learn, a widow. She is also raising the two children she had with the now deceased Mark Darcy and gingerly wading back into the dating pool while working on a screenplay. When she joins Twitter, she obsesses about the number of Twitter followers she has the same way she used to agonize over her weight, which does remains a concern. Bridget begins a Twitter flirtation with a sexy guy named Roxster, who turns out to be only 29. Most of the novel is devoted to the ups and downs of their ensuing relationship. It is fun to revisit Bridget and all her neuroses, but the novel is at its best when Fielding focuses on the challenges Bridget faces as a single parent, including her love/hate relationship with one of her son’s teachers, rather than on the somewhat unrealistic May-December romance.HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: The longed-for return of Bridget Jones is supported by a hefty print-run (250,000), a first serial in Vogue, and a major author tour. --Kristine Huntley

How on earth I reviewed Bridget Jones's Diary only a few weeks ago and completely missed that Helen Fielding finally wrote a third book after only 14 years, I don't know. I discovered Mad About the Boy while at the library. There it sat in the new books display and I was so excited that I immediately rattled off a Facebook status to express my excitement. Then I was as anxious as a child who had to wait to play with a new toy while I ran my errands. I couldn't wait to get home and begin reading!

Before I started reading Mad About the Boy I made the huge mistake of going onto Amazon to see the release date. (October! This book had been out for months and I didn't even know!) I couldn't help but notice there were some less than stellar reviews. I started reading some and ran into a huge spoiler. I normally don't write spoilers into my reviews but if you've read anything about Mad About the Boy (articles and such) then you will find out Mark Darcy is dead. Bridget Jones is a widow and mother of two.

While other decade long fans were furious that Mark Darcy was killed off, I was even more excited to read the book. You see, I'm a widow and a single mother myself. The idea that my favorite literary heroine of all time was now a widow just like me was almost more than I could stand. It was as if Helen Fielding had peeked into my head and written the perfect book. (And truth be told, I never really liked Mark Darcy anyway.)

Then I read another detail about Bridget Jones that made my "perfect book" not so perfect anymore. Bridget Jones is fifty-one!? Was this some kind of joke? But even` at 38, I could still relate to Bridget worrying about grey hair, wrinkles, and getting older.

Which brings me to the biggest flaw in the book. It is impossible to believe that Bridget Jones is 51. She doesn't even remotely behave like someone middle-aged. She seemed much more like someone my age. So I decided to ignore the fact that Bridget is supposed to be middle-aged and decided she was in her late thirties. The story just works better that way.

Many people complained that Bridget hadn't learned her relationships lessons and behaved, well, like the Bridget Jones we know and love who is obsessed with men, weight, dating, and relationships. I assure you this is actually quite realistic. You see, after being married for a long time and suddenly thrust into the world of the singleton as a widow, it is exactly like that. You have to resort to remembering what things were the last time you were single and dating.

Like Bridget, I could relate to suddenly having to deal with meeting people online, social media, and texting. I have never met anyone from Twitter though. I found it a little hard to believe that Roxster was willing to meet Bridget having never actually seen what she looked like even in a picture. Although I imagine he probably asked their mutual friend what Bridget looked like. While I've never dated anyone 20 years younger than me, how Roxster reacted to the idea of dating someone with a pre-made family was realistic. (However, I did find it hard to believe that Bridget got over 700 Twitter followers.)

What was most touching about the novel was what Bridget experiences as a widow. This was so true to how it really is. The memories of your late husband and the grief can strike you completely out of the blue even when you are at your happiest. Like Bridget, you feel guilty for feeling happy. You don't want to feel sad but you just can't help it and sometimes the grief and stress is overwhelming.

The part of the book that affected me deeply was when Bridget was at the picnic style concert watching her son playing his solo on the bassoon. She watched all the other married couples with their children and felt intense loneliness and grief that her husband and father of her children couldn't be there. Even anger about the unfairness of it all. I had to put the book down because I was crying so hard. Helen Fielding couldn't have gotten this experience more perfect or right. 

However, the entire book wasn't always this perfect or right. While I loved the storyline, I absolutely hated at least the first one third of this book. I can't really tell you what was so bad about it. Bridget just got on my nerves and was just such a ridiculous person. 

Then I started to like the book but two sentences nearly made me want to put the book down and never return to it ever. There's this scene where Bridget feeds her children chocolate buttons that may or may not be smeared with dog poo. I wish I was joking. It reads:

"'Two trails,' I added laying a careful line of exactly matching chocolate buttons...ignoring the fact that tradesmen may previously have trailed dog-poo traces into carpet. The two of them [Bridget's kids] obediently trotted up the stairs after me, stuffing the no-doubt-poo-smeared buttons into their mouths."

WTF!? Seriously WTF? What in God's name is wrong with Helen Fielding that she would write this? What is wrong with her editor that the editor would leave it in the book? It was just messed up on so many levels.

I decided to return to the book but I was only able to continue reading because I pretended like these two horrifying sentences were not actually in the book. Fortunately after this the book got quite good. There were lots of laugh out loud and touching moments of Bridget as a mother and singleton. It was refreshing even to read about a mom that isn't Supermom and doing everything perfect all the time. However, sometimes the idea that Bridget is still screwing up so much at the age of 51 is a bit ridiculous.

The book also needed some editing. There was a lot of subplots regarding Twitter, the neighbor with the weird hair, the leathercoatman, and this part where Bridget puts her to do list into The 7 Habits of Higly Successful people into quadrants, and so on that just cluttered up the story.

There is one final unbelievable thing that Bridget does. She is writing a modern adaption "Hedda Gabler" for the silver screen called "The Leaves in His Hair." She misspells it "Hedda Gabbler" and believes it was written by Anton Chekhov. This is ridiculous and stupid. Helen Fielding makes Bridget a complete joke as a career woman. I understand it's Bridget's thing to screw up constantly but couldn't Fielding let her get just one thing right?

This novel was hit and miss. There were parts I adored and parts that I absolutely loathed. (Still it was better than The Edge of Reason. I didn't like the Edge of Reason so won't bother rereading and reviewing it.) Was Mad About the Boy worth a 14 year wait? It wasn't what I, along with thousands of other fans were expecting. We wanted Bridget planning a wedding, experiencing pregnancy, and we wanted to see her married to Mark. Maybe Helen Fielding will take the hint and write us a prequel?

My rating is overall is Photobucket but the book was only two stars in some places and a solid four in others. I don't think I've ever read a book that wavered so much in quality. And I sincerely do hope this book becomes a movie.

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