Penguin Random House
Even though the decorations are about to come down, the leftovers are long gone and the resolutions have been made, it’s still the time of year to catch up with old friends. Cheerful exclamations between old school-pals squeezing by you in the packed pub with barely a second before encountering another one, back home on the old sod for the season, Christmas card promises to actually meet up before this year shuffles off in twelve month’s time, group Whats App messages being sent to far away friends, encouraging them to hurry back and join the fun – the most comforting thing in the world is reminiscing and catching-up, remembering why you were friends in the first place. Which is just what settling down with Bridget Jones’s Baby feels like; a hark back to simpler times when her (and possibly your) biggest problems were things like squeezing in (and then out of) granny pants and choosing between the better of two hunky men.
Older but not much wiser, plenty has changed since we last left Bridget gleefully on the verge of walking down the aisle with her Mr. Darcy. It’s hardly a spoiler to reveal that she and Mark split – where would the conflict be then? – but the spark that refused to go away in the first two books remains simmering, and a nostalgic run in at a christening leads to the pair reigniting that flame. Of course a typical series of blunders and misjudgements endeavour to put their relationship off course yet again, and send our heroine straight into the arms of old lothario Daniel Cleaver, so when a pregnancy test reveals two telling parallel stripes Bridget is at once overjoyed and flummoxed, caught once again in a dilemma of her own creation.
The book this time comes after the film, which was released last summer to some critical acclaim but mostly excitement from its fans. Although the movies weren’t bad – as rom-coms went they certainly made the grade, and Renee Zellweger really did perfectly embody the slightly air-headed yet ultimately independent and capable heroine. After a twelve year absence from screens, however, the narrative seemed to some commentators a little bit old-fashioned; even though Bridget is a fairly successful career woman, with her own flat and group of well-rounded friend, securing a partner remain the ultimate goal. Is it a step backward to promote antiquated notions of life success? Even Disney has begun to reject romance as its central theme – its hugest hit since The Lion King, Frozen celebrated sisterhood, which stood companionably beside Brave and Moana, both of which were female character led independence, bravery and family values at their cores, rather than damsels being saved by dashing princes.
I would think there’s room for all of those stories, particularly as we stride forward into 2017. It’s fantastic that young girls finally have heroines to look up to who aren’t continuously being rescued by far more ambitious and accomplished men, but it does older readers a disservice to assume that their choice of literature will negatively impact their well-honed feminist ideals. There’s nothing wrong with wanting a happy ending with a man or a woman, just as there’s nothing wrong in favouring a life without a partner. Bridget makes no apologies for wanting a family, one that includes the father of her child (whoever that may turn out to be) but she also happily champions her friends who have chosen different paths. She herself has been educated and wound up as a television producer by way of book publishing and reporting, which hardly indicates a woman who has been sitting on her laurels, twiddling her thumbs waiting for someone to bring home the bacon.
If Bridget Jones’s Baby landed in your stocking this Christmas and you haven’t gotten round to opening it, do when you have a few hours to yourself and are in need of a switch off; it has the same warmth, humour and general silliness as the first two books (and opposed to the slightly more thoughtful and sad Mad About the Boy, which came before this one but is chronologically last in the series). Like sitting down with your other old friends, Bridget Jones will have you laughing, sighing in despair but always rooting for her no matter which path she ultimately chooses to take.
- Aoife B. Burke
- First Published in The Tuam Herald on 04.01.17