I have mixed feelings regarding Helen Fielding's Bridget Jones trilogy. The first book, Bridget Jones's Diary, was a hilarious piece of chick-lit perfection. The second book, Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason was abysmal and nearly unreadable ( or if we are talking about the film version, unwatchable).
It's been twelve years since Fielding last published a Bridget Jones novel and now she is back with Mad About the Boy. I probably would have skipped reading this latest book, if I had not heard about her bold and surprising move. She killed off Bridget's leading man, Mark Darcy! Whoa! I had to read the book to see how it would play out and mourn the loss of Darcy. If they make a film version, Colin Firth will be much missed.
The book is set many years in the future, five years after Darcy is tragically killed in an accident. Bridget and Darcy had married and she is left a widow with two young children. The book takes place right as Bridget is ready to start dating again, which naturally leads to craziness and hijinks. She is finding that dating in her early fifties has many challenges that she didn't face in her thirties.
Killing off Darcy is brilliant, as it allows for the series to have a reboot and it also gives a bit of depth to an otherwise very shallow story. The best parts and really only good parts of the story are the quiet moments when Bridget is reflective and struggling with her grieving and the stress of being a single parent. The book has some nice moments towards the end, when the story gets to be less outrageous and more serious.
The story desperately tries to be funny and mostly falls flat. There were endless jokes about hair lice (aka nits) that just went on for too long. If the comedy had been attacked in a more subtle manner, it may have been more genuinely funny, although it probably wouldn't have been very "Bridget Jones". There is little subtle about this series.
I kept picturing the actors that portrayed the characters in the film versions of the first two books, especially Renee Zellweger as Bridget. Normally this would have been distracting, but in this case it helped me stay rooted in the story.
I liked the return of Daniel Cleaver as the godparent to Bridget's children. The character is well conceived in small doses and I loved the direction that Fielding took him in the third novel.
This is not a great story, but if you're a fan of the series, you need to bite the bullet and read it.