"Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy" (Alfred A. Knopf), by Helen Fielding
Time has dulled Bridget Jones.
It has also left her neither wiser, more relaxed nor comfortable with the person she's become and the people she counts as her friends.
That's both good and bad because in Helen Fielding's "Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy," the British heroine — whose sense of self was so strong and so entertaining in the first two novels that it created an archetype of self-determination belaboring amusing bouts of self-confidence — is lost amid social media, parental responsibility and trying to impress the moms at school.
So how, now, is Bridget Jones at 51? Content in marriage to Mark Darcy? Happily ensconced in having quit smoking, raising two children and avoiding the trap of being a smug married woman?
In a word, no. Darcy is dead and Bridget is a single mother to their two children, dating a man whose age is around half her own while her best mates find themselves vacillating between adult responsibility and living their lives as the unfettered and unbound twenty- and thirty-somethings they used to be.
It's been nearly 20 years since "Bridget Jones's Diary" was published in 1996, vaulting Fielding from freelance reporter to one of Britain's best-known and most popular writers. The 1999 sequel, "Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason," continued Bridget's bold, if not brassy, tales.
But it seems that fear of being a 51-year-old single parent raising two young children in the age of social media is too much for her.
Fielding strives throughout the book to add relevance to her character's life and all of its foibles, mishaps and happy accidents. It's just not enough, though not for lack of trying. Perhaps that's an echo of the time that Bridget and her readers live in, with the short bursts of information, a focus on the quick and a general intolerance for taking time to do things.