Book: Mad About The Boy
Author: Helen Fielding
Publisher: Helen Fielding India
Sunday, 20 October 2013
110lbs, calories 3245 (v bad), minutes spent thinking about perfect tweet that will make self popular 30, actual tweets sent 0, number of hours spent procrastinating when have to write review 12, review written 1 (not bad).
For someone who's read both the Bridget Jones books from cover to cover, the above entry won't sound like gibberish. Fielding's cult, hapless British singleton character, who became a reference point for single women in their 30s across the world, spawned several columns, two novels and two hit films. When the author first announced Jones' return, like all fans, I could hardly contain my excitement.
Over the years, Bridget Jones's Diary and Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason had become my go to books whenever I felt down and needed a hearty chuckle. Even though Jones had a somewhat fairytake-like ending in the latter, a true fan knew that it was only a matter of time before she would unwittingly engulf herself with problems again. Thus, her return, even though over a decade later, was a long time coming.
Mad About The Boy starts five years after Darcy's death. Yes, Mark Darcy is dead. Jones is now a widowed mother to seven-year-old Billy, five-year-old Mabel and is coping with the new technology.
There's a lot to keep up with — televisions with multiple remotes, an Xbox-obsessed son, Twitter, mass emails from school, text messaging, online dating and reading glasses to get through them all. Like in the previous two books, Jones still compulsively makes lists (never to be fulfilled), consumes numerous units of alcohol, procrastinates and sustains on diets of ham and cheese paninis. There are newer activities — losing weight (zumba, obesity clinics), ensuring the kids get to school safe, sound and on time every day, Daniel Cleaver as Godfather, a new wardrobe to look like celebrity mother and work on 'Hedda Gabbler' — a soon-to-be-turned-into-a-movie script, all with steady support from her 'urban family' of Talitha, Tom and Jude.
Talitha is the newest addition to the gang, a feisty 60-year-old who believes hair extensions, botox and the right attitude towards age can conquer all. Not a part of the 'smug marrieds' anymore, Jones's urban family has one mission — to hook her up with someone who can reverse her Born-Again Virgin status. Enter Roxby McDuff, a 30-year-old toyboy she meets off Twitter. From an embarrassing first date where she chokes on wine and gets sick, Jonesey and Roxster (Twitter handles) forge a relationship filled with lots of sex, witty repartee over text messaging, mini-breaks and several 'fart-worthy' moments. There is a redeeming factor that Fielding brings in the end to ensure that Jones is not left to her hapless ways again.
As with other books, Fielding's humour is bang on, guaranteed to induce loud sniggers. Sample this: Bridget comes home — House seems dark, lonely and forlorn. How can I possibly get on with writing screenplay when feel like this? (Five minutes later) That's better, was wearing prescription sunglasses again.
But my gushing enthusiasm aside, Mad About The Boy is a tad disappointing. Fielding's brave attempt at showing Jones as a straggling widow of two has to be appreciated, but Mark Darcy's absence is perhaps the key area where the novel falters since his character was what brought a steady balance to Jones' and consequently the book's narration. Mad About... drags in the middle and could have done with fewer pages.
Fielding, though, has to be commended for weaving in references to current news events — the TESCO horsemeat scandal, references to Fifty Shades Of Grey, the royal family, Game of Thrones and even modern lingo usages like 'totes' and 'amazog' in Jones' tweets. As you reach the acknowledgements section and read Fielding's long-drawn explanation, it dawns on you that Fielding IS the real Bridget Jones. As Dan Franklin, a publisher at Jonathan Cape, had once said, “Helen is one of a very select band who have created a character, Bridget, of whom the very thought makes you smile.” We just have to agree.