A Helen Fielding Talk – Mad About the Boy

helenfielding pic Note: This blog contains spoilers for Helen Fielding’s latest, Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy. So, if you’ve managed to avoid spoilers thus far(no mean feat), be warned!

Unless you have been living under a rock these past couple of months, you must have heard about the somewhat controversial plot twist in Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy, the new installment of Helen Fielding’s famed series. If this is news to you, I apologize for having to be the one to inform you of this terrible news and urge you to escape from beneath your humble abode.

However, let us return to the main issue at hand. Mr Darcy is dead. He ceases to exist in the fictional world. When I heard the news, I stared out the window into the bleak sky, while a single tear ran down my cheek and the faint whisper of “Darcy” died upon my lips (side note: all of this happened internally since I was at work and checking Facebook on the sly). Immediately, I promised myself that I would not read the book; I don’t know about you, but I do not want to live in a world without Mr. Darcy. I adopted the attitude that my father has towards the Godfather series: laud the first two movies for their cinematic genius and pretend like the third movie never happened.

Some of you may argue that Mark Darcy of Bridget Jones is not the same man as Austen’s Fitzwilliam Darcy and you are correct. But he’s pretty darn close. Mark Darcy was a modern, attainable and relatable option for me in my depressingly Darcy-free existence. And I rather take Mr. Darcy lite than nothing at all, which is why I took the news of his death so hard.

While I was dismayed at the news, I was struck by the chutzpah of Fielding. She killed off a representation of one of the most famed and beloved characters in fiction. Was she some kind of sadist? (Who will be her next victim? Santa?) Did she not want lovable but bungling Bridget to find love? It seemed to me that she was guaranteeing poor sales and dismal reviews. I thought that it could possibly be for the hype: The second book came out in 2000 and the last movie was made in 2004.

Whatever the reason behind Darcy’s death, I was intrigued despite myself. When I discovered that Ms. Fielding would be participating in a Q&A at a local bookstore, I had to go hoping to find answers. And despite not knowing what to expect, I found Ms. Fielding to be an intelligent and charismatic woman. She had a very easy manner, was ready to laugh at herself, and had the ability to make the room seem like an intimate discussion space despite the amounts of people. Dare I say it, she reminded me very much of what a real life Bridget would have been like, albeit a much more suave and sophisticated version. As for Mr. Darcy’s death, Fielding argued that in all life, even in Bridget’s, there can and will be great sadness. Yet it is Bridget’s character, her joie de vivre and her ability to still go on despite tragedy that makes her lovable to all readers. If Bridget could survive the loss of her Mr. Darcy; anything is possible. It was during this talk that I learned that prior to writing Bridget Jones, Fielding worked as a journalist in the Eastern Sudan region of Africa. This job placed her in the presence of much sadness, yet she maintained that a positive outlook gave her the ability to find happiness.

Sure enough, although sooner than I would have liked, talk turned to comparisons between Fielding and Bridget. Ms. Fielding denied that Bridget’s character was directly based off of herself, but she did say that while “it is fiction, you can only write about what you know-and exaggerate.” However, Bridgetisms seem to occur around Fielding, she shared a story of her son’s birth: Knowing her son was to be born any day, Fielding constructed a mass email that she would send as the announcement. She inadvertently sent the email that night and had to deal with people congratulating her a week before he was actually born. Again in true Bridget fashion, a printing error caused 40 pages of Sir David Jason’s autobiography My Life to be inserted into the first batch of Mad About the Boy copies. Standing there and listening to Ms. Fielding talk, I was struck by a thought: “It’s not Mr Darcy that Fielding has to escape from, but Bridget.” Perhaps the death of Darcy was to show the deeper strength of Bridget, and simultaneously herself. She is right: there is sadness in the world, but as long as it doesn’t diminish the happiness, we should be okay in the end. How many of you are going to read the Darcy-free Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy?

– Lauren Onorato

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8 Responses to “A Helen Fielding Talk – Mad About the Boy”

  1. Marianne McA says:

    I’m on the fence about it: the second Bridget is a favourite read, and I enjoyed the first.
    However, I thought Olivia Joules was a dreadful book (a wannabe journalist who can outrun explosions & never even considers filing copy) & I remember being pretty unimpressed by the post-Bridget Jones 2 newspaper columns.

    I’m not bothered about Darcy. It’s sort of a balancing act in my head – on the one side, Fielding can be genuinely funny, and parenting is a good thing to be funny about – and that makes me want to read it. On the other hand, by the time Fielding parented she was moving in a different sort of society: will I be able to relate to this Bridget? The later newspaper columns didn’t resonate with me at all.

    So, pretty solidly, it depends. If at some point I see in Tesco’s for £3, or someone I trust gives it a positive review, I probably will read it – but it’s not made it on to my Amazon wishlist yet.

  2. Noelie says:

    I won’t read the last Bridget Jones’ installment. First because I didn’t read the second book, but mostly because I hate it when authors kill a major character in a following book. That’s a big no no for me.

  3. LeeB. says:

    “When I heard the news, I stared out the window into the bleak sky, while a single tear ran down my cheek and the faint whisper of “Darcy” died upon my lips (side note: all of this happened internally since I was at work and checking Facebook on the sly).”

    Love this! :)

  4. Joane says:

    Well, I’d like to read it. But only when I can have it on my kindle paying less than 6 €, or if somebody lends me a copy. So I will read it but not any time soon.

  5. leslie says:

    Mark Darcy is not Mr. Darcy. Colin Firth is an actor who played both characters. I think some people confused Mark with Colin and ergo uproar. Fielding made a gutsy move for sure, but the columns/books (and films) have been about Bridget Jones navigating through life as a single woman in London during the nineties. So it would make sense that she would be middle aged and single in this book. I loved the parts of the book with the kids and I liked the ending. What I didn’t like was how long it took to find out how Mark died, also the diary entries became a bore and so did the idiot friends. I didn’t care much for them in the previous books either. Bridget Jones is such an icon for single women from that era, I applaud Fielding for staying true to Bridget’s singleton roots and giving her a second chance at love.

    I don’t really get the uproar…..now if Nora Roberts knocked off Roarke….well that would be another story.

  6. LeeF says:

    Since I found the first book so charming and the second somewhat less so and don’t even get me started on the movie……probably won’t bother reading it.

  7. CarolineAAR says:

    Color me skeptical, but… Bridget Jones’s story was a romance, which was resolved. Fielding wants to sell another book, and Bridget is her best commodity. How to use Bridget again when she and Darcy already got together? Kill Darcy and make Bridget start over. I think that’s the simplest and most likely explanation.