By Alice Ritchie, AFP
LONDON–Bridget Jones returns after a 14-year break on Thursday, in a new book which sees the famed British singleton widowed with two children but still grappling with modern life and unsuitable men. Author Helen Fielding has already dropped the bombshell news about the death of Mark Darcy, the devastatingly handsome love interest who helped the two previous books sell 15 million copies across 40 countries. “Mad About The Boy” is set five years after his death as Bridget launches herself back onto the dating scene as a single mum, negotiating the new-fangled technology of texts and Twitter and finding herself a boyfriend two decades younger. Her compulsive list-making remains, but these days diets are foiled by eating her children’s leftovers, she is now late for school rather than work and the desire to drink and smoke tests her hopes of being “the perfect mother.” And her fear from the first book of dying alone and being eaten by Alsatians is now replaced by a fear of dropping dead and being eaten by her starving, parentless children. One entry reads: “Thursday 19 April 2012. 175lb, alcohol units 4 (nice), calories 2822 (but better eating real food in club than bits of old cheese and fish fingers at home), possibility of having or desire to have sex ever again 0.” Reviewers have complained that characteristics that were so endearing in a 30-something Bridget are a mismatch for the 51-year-old widow, the darkness of Darcy’s death undermining the humor of the original books. But fans will likely relish the return of one of modern fiction’s most iconic characters, and pre-orders on Amazon have already made the book a bestseller. ‘Clunking disappointment’ Fielding created Bridget in the mid 1990s for a newspaper column about the life of a 30-something singleton searching for love in London.
The first book, “Bridget Jones’ Diary” in 1996, was a global success, spawning a whole new vocabulary — from smug “marrieds” to “fuckwits” — a new, truncated style of writing and arguably kick-starting the entire “Chick Lit” genre. The second book, “Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason,” in 1999 was also a success and both were made into films starring Renee Zellweger as Bridget, Colin Firth as Darcy and Hugh Grant as Darcy’s love rival Daniel Cleaver. There are some real laughs and some poignant moments in the new book, but the first reviews were not kind. “It isn’t just the style that jars: the random capital letters, the subjectless sentences, the mannerisms that now seem awfully tired. It isn’t just the rather hysterical tone,” one critic wrote in the Sunday Times. “It’s the fact that I hardly believed a word of it. I didn’t believe that a 51-year-old woman would tot up the number of minutes she’d spent on Twitter, and spend meetings about her own film script sending saucy texts.” Others have suggested that the reams of print that followed in the style of Bridget Jones, including most recently a spate of books about the comic trials of domestic life, have made it harder for the original to stand out.