narfna’s #CBR5 Review #101: Mad About the Boy by Helen Fielding

bridget-jones-mad-about-the-boy1SPOILERS AHOY. Just this whole thing. Don’t even read it. Unless you don’t care about being spoiled about something that was in the news and people freaked out about on Twitter and also you learn in the very first paragraph of the book. In that case, welcome, dear friend.

When I say that I was sad about the news that Helen Fielding would be killing Mark Darcy in her third Bridget Jones book, I am practicing the rhetorical technique known as litotes, which is fancy asshole for “understatement.” The reason I am being a fancy asshole about it is that I have never in my life been more upset about the death of a fictional character than I was about Mark Darcy. ‘Devastated’ would be an accurate word for my emotional state. Also ‘destroyed.’ And ‘demolished.’ I am laid waste to. The more astute of you will notice that I am now employing the opposite of litotes, hyperbole, which is one of my favorite and most used forms of expression. I am doing this because I am a fancy asshole, as stated previously, but also because I am putting off as long as possible having to write the rest of this review, which I am convinced will crumble me until I am nothing more than dusty remains of what used to be a person.

Because Fuckin’ A, Mark Darcy is dead.

Initially, I wasn’t even going to read the thing. I felt betrayed. I felt it was unnecessary and cruel. And I hadn’t even liked the second book all that much anyway SO THERE. But then I got curious. And a friend reviewed it positively. And I gave in.

I’m so glad I did. I loved this book. I loved it hard. I loved it against my will.

If the first two books were about Bridget coping with the life of a terminally single woman, and then learning to navigate the perils of adult relationships, and both of those things were now accomplished, then what is the point of having a third book? Well, it turns out that what Bridget is coping with this time around is how a person can live through their grief and come out the other side. Fielding is also clearly interested in examining through Bridget the process of coming to terms with aging, and what’s like to have to start over after you thought you were done. You had it in the bag. And I think it’s something she succeeds at handily.

It’s not that these topics are anything new. Actually, I’m fairly sure there have been hundreds, if not thousands, of books written surrounding similar issues. What sets this one apart, however, is that we knew Bridget before she was a fifty-year old widow with two young children, grieving over a husband she loved very much. We fell in love with Mark Darcy as she fell in love with him, we experienced their relationship pangs and joys together, and we were almost as happy as she was when their story ended in a — what turned out to be — temporary happy ending. So now, we’re not just reading a story about a widow trying to start her life over and cope with her loss, we’re experiencing those losses with someone very like a friend. And we’re not just reading about her grief; we’re experience it right along with her. I felt physical pain during the scenes when Bridget thought about her dead husband, what his face looked like the night their daughter was born, how he kissed her goodbye the last time she saw him, how he would never see his children grow up.

And the thing about those scenes is that Fielding uses them so sparingly, interweaving them with episodes of Bridget’s awkwardness in dating, in parenting, in friendship, and in work, that they hit all that much harder when they appear. Bridget is trying so very hard to move past the death of her husband. She isn’t dwelling on it (at least anymore, but it’s been years in book time since Darcy’s death). Fielding’s style very much reflects Bridget’s state of mind. I found myself alternately sobbing and laughing on more than one occasion.

Because yes, this is a sad book. But is also a very, very funny one.

So if you take anything from this review, if you’re one of those people who are refusing to read this book because of what you heard on the news, I ask that you reconsider. It might stil be painful for you, but it will be painful in a way that feels true, and you will come out the other side just fine, just as Bridget does. Maybe you’ve just got a little more sadness mixed in with the rest.

I’m almost tempted to give Mad About the Boy five stars, writing this. But she did kill Mark Darcy after all, and we can’t let her completely get away with it.

[4.5 stars]

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Lollygagger’s CBR5 Review #44: Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy by Helen Fielding

I was trying to figure out how to write this review without spoiling the book (beyond the whole Mark is dead thing, which is not a spoiler, but instead the whole premise of the book). Most of what bothered me about the book involves pretty specific plot lines, but I’m going to try to get through the review by speaking at a general level. However, if you want to read the book and don’t want to know ANYTHING about the plot, maybe just stop reading at the end of this paragraph. I’ll TL:DR it for you: pretty entertaining, retreads much of the same ground from the first two books, Bridget does seem like Bridget still (but older), worth downloading in e-version or checking out of the library for a quick read.
Alright, the longer, slightly spoiler-y stuff. So Bridget is 51 in the book. For those of you who were introduced to her via the movie, that sounds too old, but I think the time line is based on the original books, but even so it’s not that far off as the first move came out TWELVE YEARS AGO.
Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck
Overview:
As stated above, we’re visiting Bridget over a decade down the road, and four years after Mark has died, leaving her a widow with a young son and a three-month-old daughter. I noticed this comment when Pajiba originally reported the news, from Sara_Tonin00 “There’s a decent romcom to be made about a young widow trying to figure out how to date again – but I don’t think it’s about Bridget Jones.” To that person I would say this works better than I thought it would, but that’s not to say that it’s groundbreaking or earth shattering. It’s a pleasant book, and to me it strikes true to the Bridget we’ve gotten to know in the first couple of books: still self-centered but not much more so than most folks seem to be these days.
The high points:
She doesn’t utterly forget about her children; they aren’t like Emma in “Friends,” they serve more than just a plot twist every few chapters. In fact I actually came to care for them. They aren’t angels but they aren’t devils; I don’t have children of my own but my experience with my nieces seems to fit. And while the children certainly feature in the book, Bridget still has experiences that aren’t entirely about them.
I also think that Ms. Fielding does a good job (as far as I can say, not having experienced the death of a spouse) of capturing how, as time passes, sure the grief isn’t top of mind all the time, but it’s there, and can pop up as easily at a mundane event as during the holidays. I think it made sense to set the book well after the death so it’s not so much about getting through every day but instead about getting through life and what Bridget wants it to include since it can no longer include Mark.
Most of the same folks figure in this book, so it’s fun to see how the past few years have been treating them. I especially enjoyed catching up with Daniel, who surprisingly does make an appearance. The writing was also pretty good – I started on Monday night (the benefit of being on the west coast – it came through on my Kindle just after 9PM) and finished up Thursday at lunch, and it only took that long because I had a bunch of stuff to do on Tuesday and Wednesday evening. I am traveling this week and wish I had saved it because I know it would have made the flight go faster.
The low points:
Yes, the book now incorporates Twitter and OK Cupid (woo, up to the minute technology!) but so much of it seems like a retread of the previous books. Obviously there are only so many different ways to talk about searching for love but, without spoiling anything, a lot of the book seems VERY familiar, and I was able to (accurately) imagine the last page of the book a few chapters in.
There’s also a storyline about her being fat, and I get that Ms. Fielding was looking for a total transformation / look what’s happened but COME ON. That’s a pretty lazy writing device, and also offensive to anyone who is, well, fat, because fat is a substitute here for letting everything go. Fat isn’t bad, isn’t even necessarily unhealthy, and the fact that once she decides to lose it the method she picks just .. works? Not realistic. It’s obnoxious and I would hope Ms. Fielding was better than that.
Also the Twitter component seems a little OOH! Look at the older folks and the hip new technology! It eventually serves a purpose but I did start giggling because it seemed like the start of a bad SNL sketch more than a plot component.
Suggestions:
If you enjoyed the first two books (or the first move – let’s all just pretend that second movie never happened, shall we?), I think you’ll be able to get past the whole no more Mark component and enjoy checking in with Bridget. It’s not a feminist tome, and I doubt that any women who have lost their husbands will be looking to it as a guide, but it’s a fun quick read.

Lollygagger’s #CBR5 Review #41: Bridget Jones: Edge of Reason by Helen Fielding

As you may have read yesterday, I loved Bridget Jones’s Diary. It was fun, honest, shallow, deep. Everything I want in a quick read. So naturally I downloaded the second Bridget Jones book. Still a quick read, still entertaining, probably not as great, but still fun.

Spoilers ahead, sort of.

This book starts with our heroine still dating Mark Darcy. There are some challenges, and they spend the better part of the year apart, possibly due to a scheming ‘friend’ who has decided that SHE belongs with Mark Darcy, not Bridget. There are bits that made me somewhat uncomfortable – basically the entire storyline involving Bridget’s mother and a trip to Africa – but there were also a lot of moments where I genuinely laughed. There’s also an entire chapter that I admit to reading with one eye closed because OH MY GOD EMBARRASSING. If you’ve read this book, I think you know the chapter. Ah, Colin Firth.

This book has a few more absurd components than the first one, and I have to say that I was a bit annoyed that the same plot device from the first book – Horrible Legal Misunderstanding Fixed by Dashing Mark Flying Somewhere To Fix It – was unnecessary and seemed to be a bit … lazy? I mean, it worked in the first one, so perhaps Ms. Fielding felt if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it? I don’t know. The second half of the Thailand storyline was ridiculous, but the first? I do have to admit that I didn’t see it coming. So there’s that.

Also, there’s a weird language issue – I don’t know if this is an England thing, and I don’t recall it from living there a year, but instead of referring to someone as Asian, the author has the characters saying ‘oriental.’ That’s … not right. And was jarring every time I saw it.

I don’t see myself re-reading this book, but I am still excited for the third installment. I like Bridget. I don’t know if I would be friends with her, but I’m invested. She can be shallow, but I do think Ms. Fielding has written her with a good heart. She’s flawed but she’s not insufferable. I want good things for her.

Lollygagger’s #CBR5 Review #40: Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding

This book is so good.

I saw the movie. I laughed at the idea that Renée Zellwegger was fat. I drooled a bit over Colin Firth’s Mark Darcy. I loved the screw-up at work where Bridget claimed she was on the phone with an author who had, unbeknownst to her, died three decades earlier, when the word fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck scrolled across the bottom of the screen. I recognized the friendship archetypes.

The book isn’t better, or worse. It’s different, and frankly, I thought it was fantastic. I was expecting a sad, ridiculous stereotype of a woman – instead the Bridget Jones in print is a complex woman who isn’t overly intellectual but isn’t flighty or ridiculous. She’s living in a world where she’s been told what her value is in terms of looks and in terms of her marriagability. She is rational, then irrational, then rational again.

The book has a somewhat similar storyline to the film – there is a relationship with her boss Daniel, there is a disdain, then attraction, then disdain, then attraction with Mark Darcy, all her friends are accounted for – but there are also some diversions. For example, she has a brother in the book. And her mother’s journey takes something of a dark turn. But the core of the book – and of Bridget herself – remains.

I’m newly married, and I only spent one year as properly single in my 30s. However, I could relate to so much of Bridget’s internal monologue. Some of it was so ridiculous – like when she leaves a potential sex partner because she doesn’t want to just fuck around, and has this triumphant feminist moment … then muses “I may have been right, but my reward, I know, will be to end up all along, half-eaten by an Alsatian” – but still relate-able. She’s so hard on herself – tracking her daily food consumption, her weight, her cigarette intake – and beating herself up with each weight fluctuation.

One favorite part is when she somehow manages to get her weight down to her goal, and everyone comments that she looks a bit tired, and looked ‘better before.’ “Now I feel empty and bewildered…Eighteen years – wasted. Eighteen years of calorie- and fat-unit-base arithmetic…I feel like a scientist who discovers that his life’s work has been a total mistake.” Observations like that – as well as the one that she has lost 72 pounds and gained 74 pounds over the course of the year – are real, at least, to me, and they represent the constant struggle many women face, and how they feel they can’t win. I’ve been there. Shoot, I live there.

She’s also hard on herself when it comes to work, and men. Whenever she has a flash of self-confidence or makes an attempt to start fresh, something inevitable pops up to derail her. Sometimes it’s silly, but most of the time it seems fairly realistic. It’s not like everything is bad, always, but there is this sort of constant underlying stress. It’s not the same stress as someone who is facing poverty, or racism, or anything so serious, but it’s that steady undercurrent saying you aren’t thin enough, or smart enough, or attractive enough, or enough like society wants you to be (i.e. married and having children). It’s the stress of wanting to fit convention, then buck it, then fit it again.

The book feels light and deep at the same time. I’m sure if I spent more time analyzing it I could find some problems to dissect (is she an active agent, or does she fixate her life around finding a mate?) but I kind of don’t want to spend more time focusing on it because I don’t want to ruin a really fun reading experience.

Badkittyuno’s #CBR5 Review #55 & 56: Bridget Jones’s Diary & Bridget Jones: the Edge of Reason by Helen Fielding

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“I will not fall for any of the following: alcoholics, workaholics, commitment phobics, people with girlfriends or wives, misogynists, megalomanics, chauvists, emotional fuckwits or freeloaders, perverts.”

Figured since I read the series back to back I might as well combine the reviews.

I assume everyone has seen the movie adaptation of the least the first one, and if you liked it, you’d like the novel. It’s impossible to read with hearing Renee Zellweger’s voice in your head, and how could you picture Daniel and Mark as anyone other than Hugh Grant and Colin Firth? (that gets weird, by the way, since Bridget is obsessed with Pride and Prejudice Colin Firth). Bridget is a delightful mess as she gets herself into stupid situations while worrying about her calorie intake and cigarettes consumed. She and her girlfriends obsess over men and their “emotional fuckwittage”. Bridget’s mother is an much as disaster as she, yet still counsels: “Don’t say ‘what,’ say ‘pardon,’ darling, and do as your mother tells you.”

The book is written diary-style, obviously, and I loved the breezy quality of it. In fact, while the sequel (Edge of Reason) is not quite as enjoyable (Bridget’s dumb decisions become quite a bit more unbelievable), the writing style (and an interview with Colin Firth) save it.

Fielding has some great lines/witticisms as well. Loved this one: “What is it about mothers and the phone which, immediately you say you have to go, makes them think of nineteen completely irrelevant things they have to tell you that minute?”. Makes me think we might be sisters.

In short: the first one was great (4 stars), the second was eh (2 stars). Let’s call it a 3!

Baxlala’s #CBR5 Review #4: Bridget Jones’s Diary: The Edge of Reason by Helen Fielding

Thursday 10 January

Weight: 867 lbs (due to entire Chipotle burrito bol still sitting in belly), cigarettes 0 (as don’t smoke), alcohol units 1 (responsible glass of red wine, for heart), calories 1557 (if Chipotle nutrition calculator can be trusted)

Have just finished reading Bridget Jones’s Diary: The Edge of Reason, aka BJD 2: THE DARCY STRIKES BACK. Still working out feelings re: sequel, as original was pure perfection, part of identity, Pride & Prejudice-related (so obviously superior to almost all other works of fiction), etc. Am having trouble reckoning feelings for this novel, as trainwreck of a movie is hanging over head in manner of pinata filled with poo or old, stinky cheeses.

bjd what

Seriously?

Shall not dwell on turd of a movie, however, flawed as it is, because love the lovely book! Like Bridget Jones’s Diary, sequel is based on Jane Austen novel, this time Persuasion. Had not read Persuasion until several years ago and ended up liking just as much (if not more? blasphemy!) as P&P. Naturally, Persuasion suffers from clear lack of Darcy, however Wentworth equally swoon-worthy, also Anne Elliot is obvious patron saint of Singletons everywhere, having been declared old spinster at virginal age of 27.

Our little Bridget is still struggling with job, money, romance, family (overbearing mother, drunken father), blah dee blah LIFE in usual ridiculous and fun manner. All old friends characters are back, including urban family (Jude, Shazzer, Tom), Marrieds (Smug and Otherwise), insane boss Richard Finch, delightful mess Daniel Cleaver, and of course Mark Darcy, with whom Bridget is now deeply in love. New characters join Bridget’s world in form of odious Rebecca, a jellyfish (aka frenemy) on the prowl for Bridget’s boyfriend, and friend Magda’s adorable moppets, created to make Bridget look alternately crazy and competent.

Do wish that book had not included any romantic turmoil for Bridget and Mark Darcy, however realize that there would have been conspicuous lack of plot otherwise. Could not even bring self to get worked up over ridiculousness of certain plotlines (Thai prison, hole in side of flat, stinky fish left in purse for weeks, what-have-you) because of love for all things Bridget and Darcy, also because of equally important happy ending (spoilers)! Suppose am typical girl that way, heart going all aflutter at any mention of Jones-Darcy reconciliation, evidence of Darcy-still-in-love, etc.

Recommend this book for all who enjoyed Bridget Jones’s Diary, or like well-done chick lit (still hate that hateful phrase, should stop using immediately) in general. Especially worth reading for special treat in sequel (as all sequels must one-up original) in form of Colin Firth (aka THE Mr. Darcy) being interviewed by Bridget Jones, which unfolds exactly as one would expect.

In short, sequel is v.g.