In the last week I’ve read the latest Bridget Jones offering from Helen Fielding, ‘Mad about the Boy’, and ‘Meltdown’, by Ben Elton.
I love Ben Elton. I’ve read all his books, except ‘Two Brothers’, which is next on my list. I like his humour and his easy-going style. I like that he has an actual story to tell and always has a point to make. I guess I love him so much because every point he makes is so often the same as mine! With me, he’s just preaching to the converted. And, most of all, he doesn’t repeat himself, page after page, chapter after chapter.
The same can’t be said about ‘Mad about the Boy’. There was so much repetition, it was painful. Was Ms. Fielding just trying to up the word count? I cannot believe that her agent and publisher accepted the manuscript. Did they not have more faith in her that she could actually do better? She proved she could write with ‘Bridget Jones’s Diary’. The second book, ‘The Edge of Reason’ wasn’t all that flash, but it was still readable. But this long-anticipated third installment was a poor effort.
How her agent and publisher agreed to the death of Mark Darcy, I’ll never know. Audiences liked Mark and they were happy that Bridget had found love. But we never got to invest in that love. They’d been on-again, off-again and at the end of book 2, they finally got together for good. We wanted to know how their life together looked. And we never got the chance.
Not being able to emotionally invest in their relationship made Mark Darcy’s demise hollow and empty. There was nothing for me to grieve for – except a lack of Colin Firth in the film, if they make it.
For me, the story should have been about their life together. Surely it should have been realised that Bridget’s readership had aged and evolved with her? Marriage and all its ups and downs was the next logical step for us, and her. And if Ms. Fielding wanted to return Bridget to her single status (even though why would she when there is much better fodder to be had from being in a couple), then she could have widowed her half-way through the book and we would have wept buckets. We would have forgiven Bridget for her clumsiness, shallowness, and vacuousness. Instead, she was irritating and self-interested. For me, she had minimum appeal. And I hated that I felt that way because I laughed out loud when reading the first book and I just enjoyed the creation who was Bridget.
Someone needed to sit down with Helen and have a very serious chat. They needed to tell her she was capable of better; that the joke about the nits was passable – but once only. Mentioning it a thousand times does not increase its humour value. The same goes for agonising over a lack of Twitter followers, no texts from her toy boy only to be followed by reams of unfunny texts between her and her toy boy, vomit, farts, stained clothing, lists that are first listed down the page then presented in table form. Why? Did she really think that we wanted to read the same thing over and over again? Most of the content felt like filler, as if she was required to present a certain number of words and she couldn’t think of many so she just repeated a pile of her favourites.
Ben Elton gets it right. He makes a joke once, occasionally twice, and then he moves onto a new and fresh one. And as reader, I thank him for that.