Many of us – men and women alike – enjoyed the humour and frivolity of Bridget Jones Diary when it came out in 1996. So I was disappointed to read a thumbs-down review of Fielding’s follow-up title, Mad About the Boy. Especially as we’ve waited 14 years for it! UK Telegraph reviewer Sarah Crompton reports that she didn’t laugh until she reached page 34 and had this to say about the book: “Reading the first two thirds of Mad About the Boy is like listening to someone who once had perfect pitch, but now can’t sing a note. It lies as flat on the page as its heroine’s overcooked spaghetti. Every line feels full of effort.”
Like Sarah Crompton, I regarded the love-seeking BJ as a soul sister and adopted – more by osmosis than by design – some of her vocabulary. In fact, I had forgotten that we have Fielding to thank for ‘smug marrieds’ and ‘singletons’. She did all of us single women such a favour by finding a replacement word for spinster with its dreaded on-the-shelf connotations.
But my relationship with Bridget goes even deeper. Two of my friends actually call me Bridget. That’s because there’s something about me that reminds them of BJ. Although I consider myself far more savvy and self-aware than BJ and don’t have to worry about counting calories, I’m British-born, middle class, know men who wear jumpers with cringeworthy motifs and did once use a pair of old tights instead of a muslin bag to infuse herbs in a stew. Who could forget Bridget’s blue string soup? And then, the big knickers; well yes, I do have some in my possession, but I don’t actually wear them. Well, not anymore…
So what a shame that Fielding appears to have lost the essence and voice of the original Bridget. According to Crompton some passages in the book waiver between sub-Mills and Boon style and a frolicsome Fifty Shades of Grey sort of voice. That’s enough to tell me that the now 51-year-old Bridget and I have gone our separate ways. Mark Darcy, her dream husband, has died five years before the book starts and Bridget is now a Born Again Virgin obsessing about her weight, appearance and new toy boy Roxster – all this in between managing nits and the school run (she’s also the mother of two small children).
I may share a similar vintage to Bridget but that’s where the comparison ends. I’m a smug singleton (we can be smug too) and mother of one very adorable canine child, Bertie. What’s more I’m absolutely mad about the boy. And I’ve already got him into reading. He loves a good page-turner.