Book review: 'Bridget Jones' still entertains even in grief

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When we last left our brilliant and calamity-prone heroine Bridget Jones, she was happily in love with human rights lawyer Mark Darcy, smartly looking forward to a life of bliss.

The charming Mr. Darcy's untimely death in this installment has (much to this reviewer's chagrin) already been reported here and across the pond, even by author Helen Fielding during her interview last week with the "Today" show's Jenna Bush Hager.

So don't be mad at me. "Right. Now on with it," as Bridget would say.


"BRIDGET JONES: MAD ABOUT THE BOY"

By Helen Fielding
Knopf ($26.95).


Mrs. Darcy is left with two young ones (Billy and Mabel) in tow and nothing to do but raise them happily thanks to Mr. Darcy's responsible financial planning. But five years and 40 pounds later the single mother has to face her friends' pleas that she must come out of her perpetual doom lest she dry up and die a merry widow.

The heroine of the 30-something girl now could be considered a middle-aged cougar as she dives into the 21st-century world of dating, texting and social rules that even the young spend hours deciphering.

Of course, the world of Twitter has infiltrated every aspect of modern life. So it is no surprise that Bridget's neurotic obsession with this new mode of communication has most of the story being told in 140 characters-or-less tweets. Between diary entries, bracket-marking tweets and text language, it can all get a bit messy. But after a few chapters, the cadence settles in and reading the threads makes sense and even becomes fun.

Enter Roxster, the 29-year-old hottie that Bridget hooks up with through Twitter and who spins her around literally and figuratively. Salacious tweets are entwined with Bridget's scattered diary entries about sex after 50, undergarments, play dates, the nits (i.e. lice) that invade her home and the inevitable self-questioning that comes with single parenthood, dating and aging. The self-effacing character can still bring a laugh with her calorie counting and self-dialogue. ("Is it morally wrong to have a blow-dry when one of your children has nits?")

Soul-searching, Bridget-style, weaves its way through the book. Just when you are laughing out loud at some debacle, Bridget has a personal meltdown -- remembering how Mark would handle the little crisis, or how he died, the funeral, the happy times.

Like many mothers, she stuffs her feelings and soldiers on. It can be awkward at times, showing up right after the most insignificant and self-absorbed threads. But Ms. Fielding hits this nail on the head -- profound grief is like that.

When you walk through it, you toughen up for the big events -- holidays, family gatherings, etc. -- putting on a brave face, then something stupid happens and you are caught off guard, spiraling into the abyss.

Returning characters include handsome cad Daniel Cleaver, whose partying ways begin to bear unwelcome fruit in his life, while good friends Tom and Jude provide comic relief throughout.

Bridget's mum is also a widow and lives in a retirement community opening a window to the world where seniors busy their time with activities, family days and one-upmanship of a different kind.

Not to be overlooked is Bridget's success in the world of screenwriting, as an idea of hers gets optioned for a film providing Ms. Fielding a chance to weave some of her own surreal studio meetings into Bridget's world -- and they fit just fine, hilariously, in fact.

Ms. Fielding brings Bridget around full circle by the end, in fine fashion no less. The charms of the children, the magic of our self-obsessed Bridget and the stroke of Ms. Fielding's pen make for a good read indeed.

bookreviews

Rosa Colucci: rcolucci@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1661. First Published October 15, 2013 8:00 PM


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