This blog has felt a bit neglected of late. But not because I haven’t been reading. I’ve just finished Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward but I read it for a new book group, so I want to wait for that discussion before I blog about it. And I’m currently reading Pigs in Heaven by Barbara Kingsolver. So dear reader, you have both of these reviews to anticipate. But the real reason for my silence is, alas, my personal struggle with pretension.
I am not generally a reader of trashy books. And yet, when a cultural phenomenon springs in the form of a book, I’m not above dabbling. This is where I confess to having read fairly trashy books (ahem, Dan Brown, ahem) in the name of pop culture. But where, dear reader, does Bridget Jones fall on the spectrum of lofty literature to trashy ‘chick lit’? I’m not quite sure. But having read the preceding two volumes, I felt compelled to finish the trilogy while on the plane home from a wedding in Scotland. And since I can barely find another book blog that has lowered itself to review the book, I shall suppress my snobbishness and apply myself to the task.
One sentence plot
The eponymous Bridget, now in her fifties and bereaved, sets about haplessly exploring social media, weight loss, and romantic opportunities in a context of single motherhood and misery.
I have always had rather a soft spot for Bridget Jones. I don’t really like (or read) ‘chick lit’ in the generic sense, but I’ve found Helen Fielding’s books to combine chick littiness with sufficient literariness to be cheery, charming, and enjoyable – without having to be too much of a guilty reading secret. There’s no need to be a snob about it: Bridget Jones is fun. And yet, Mad About The Boy, sadly, is not.
Clearly Fielding, having married off a character whose main premise was haplessly and humorously looking for love, needed to somehow resurrect that premise. I was amused by the distress she apparently caused her fans on her killing off Bridget’s husband to resurrect it. And I have skimmed some reviews that say she succeeded. I don’t think she did, because it’s hard to go from tragedy to lighthearted froth – and I don’t just think Fielding does it well. Instead, Mad About the Boy is a self-conscious downer that doesn’t quite know what it’s trying to achieve. The new characters are only moderately interesting. The old ones show little new depth. Bridget’s insecurities which were charming in her thirties become tedious in her fifties. Meanwhile, her adventures on Twitter don’t sound much like my experiences of Twitter, but rather like a 20th century author trying to make her new book sound 21st century.
All in all, it’s a bit crass. It’s a bit sad. It’s a bit disappointing that Fielding has chosen to resurrect her old self rather than showing much maturing with age. It’s occasionally funny; more often, there are fart jokes. It’s a bit dull. It feels a bit dated. It’s chick-lit, but without the froth. It emphasizes that a woman can’t be happy unless she has a man to look after her. Fielding’s writing is quite pleasant, and bits definitely made me chuckle. But bringing Bridget back at this later stage of her life feels like it’s one for the diehard fans rather than a book that stands up well in its own right.
The verdict: 2/5 stars (because some of the writing is quite funny and nicely written, and I can imagine duller things to read)