Bridget Jones and me: 51 and in slimming knickers
I admire Helen Fielding’s nous but I never much bought into Bridget’s world
Helen Fielding’s latest Bridget Jones book, Mad About The Boy. Photograph: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images
Flicking through the Sunday magazines on the way to the green bin, looking at the shiny pictures of countries I’ll never visit and wines I’ll never drink and recipes for tonsures of black pudding and steamed trolls in aspic, which I’ll never make, I got sucked in to an extract of Helen Fielding’s new book, Bridget Jones: Mad about the Boy.
Well done if you’ve missed the hype about this novel; if you’ve managed to navigate clear blue water and avoid altogether the shipwreck in a bubble bath that constitutes the life and times of Ms Jones, Fielding’s lucrative fictional heroine, then 10 out of 10 for being the only aesthete left standing in this grubby world.
As volume three storms the book market, Bridget is 51 and, much to the chagrin of Fielding’s loyal readers, a widow. Yes, the big news is that the author has killed off Bridget’s hard-won paramour, Mr Darcy.
Mr Darcy (literary moniker, loaded pockets, awfully good at running his fingers through his truant hair) was the pop-up prince at the end of a long frog-kissing contest, and when we last met Bridget she was deeply clenched in his cashmere coat and itching to send the wedding-present list to Harvey Nicks.
The extract didn’t reveal what had happened the poor chap; it was tempting, however, to imagine that he had fallen off his steed and fractured his chiselled manliness on his tasselled loafers.
So Bridget Jones and I are 51. We share a birthday and a penchant for slimming knickers.
Volume three, published yesterday, finds the protagonist living in a
well-appointed but chaotic London house (lucky cow) in the company of a nanny, two children called Pestle and Mortar (or something vaguely similar) and several dozen nits.
The old Bridget
The earlier books, as if you didn’t know, concerned Ms Jones, a secretary in a PR company and a confirmed “singleton” (spinster being too howwid a word), and her search for love. The pursuit of same occasionally led to a spot of rumpy-pumpy under the office desk with a floppy- haired colleague while wearing large seamless knickers. Bridget’s other habits included obsessive calorie counting and vigilant monitoring of her alcohol and nicotine intake.
The contents of Bridget’s mouth, stomach and larder are still to the forefront in the new novel; unfortunately, though, the knickers have been replaced by a silky black slip, bought to disguise her much-maligned abdominal region, in anticipation of losing her “born-again virginity” with a 29-year-old toy boy called Roxter (with whom she eventually gets chummy on the bathroom chair).
Suffice it to say that the fictional Bridget is still a ditzy blonde who thinks she is fat and unlovable, although us savvy readers know full well that actually she is perfectly lovely, dahhling, and all she needs to soothe her savage breasts, rioting away in their underwire cups, is another tall, rich, manly man from Manville to come and tuck her cute golden hair behind her ears.
Doubtless menopause, mourning and melodrama will prove to be a recipe for another bestseller. Throw in Bridget’s new obsession with social media, her daily battle with a Zumba line of private-school mothers flicking their hair extensions out the windows of their SUVs, and a movie deal already in the bag, and it’s more than reasonable to conclude that Fielding is one smart cookie who can satisfy her public’s appetite while standing on her well-disguised roots.
In Bridget Jones, Fielding created the girl next door who’s nothing at all like the girl next door; bubbly, libidinous, coy and libatious, she burst out of her skirt seams and into the zeitgeist. Her previous stories gave us a Little Red Riding Hood with 10 fags and a bottle of tequila in her basket, a Goldilocks who got her bear. In Mad About the Boy, the tarnished fairy tale, like the skin around her eye sockets, is wearing a little thin.
I admire the author’s nous but I never much bought into Bridget’s world. The books remained on the shelf, pouting and giggling and straightening their tights. I quite liked the films though; I liked to see how the producers made Reneé Zellweger fat. (There’s absolutely no truth in the rumour that they fed her the diced-up spleens of all the British actresses whose audition tapes were binned in favour of a skinny American.)
“KBO – Keep Buggering On” is Bridget’s new catchphrase as she continues her oddly dated pursuit of
self-fulfilment through snaffling up some protective new bloke in Argyle socks, drinking warm Chardonnay and weeping warm tears with her equally anxious mates.
I can’t help feeling that Bridget should have been laid to rest in the back of the wardrobe along with her shoulder pads and self-help books. Maybe my bones just creak more heavily, my wrinkles run deeper, but I don’t have the patience for further frothy introspection about her tragic midriff or her recalcitrant inner thigh.
The novel out-schmaltzes schmaltz, leaving Bridget stretched out on a sheepskin rug beside a roaring fire with moonlight and Christmas bells and I won’t say who. Maybe she’ll stay there; maybe, instead off keeping buggering on, she’ll graciously BOQ – Bugger Off Quietly.