Amidst the froth and scattiness, Helen Fielding treats her heroine’s response to grief with light but splendid realism.
In this novel, Bridget Jones, once famously single, is now a mother and a widow. However, the whirl of antics that have to happen to make it a Bridget Jones novel, don’t begin until four years after the death of her husband. A year on from there her friend Tom, now a psychologist, warns her to take it easy, that she’s still vulnerable.
A book that acknowledges fragility, five years after the death of a loved one is a rare and precious thing. Yet it’s not preachy and doesn’t make a clumsy grab for your sympathies. When she says that the first four years were just about getting through each day, she is simply being her usual candid self. She doesn’t labour the point but doesn’t make a joke of it either.
Bridget’s friends decide that she needs to get back into life: to resume writing and to get herself a boyfriend. She protests that she has a life: her two small children and the community of teachers and parents around them. Still, in no time she is obsessing about snogging, social media and men, sounding every inch like her old self.
Yet she’s not quite the same. Memories of her husband weave in and out of new ventures in dating and she accepts them with due respect. She adds widows’ insecurities to her already impressive collection: prickling when someone asks how her son is doing as she’s unsure whether this is concern for the little boy without a father or a prelude to criticism.
She is the queen of klutzes that fails at everything and yet always comes out on top. In my younger day I resented her for that but now I appreciate her resilience. She knows she’s a long way from perfect and yet she gets on with life anyway. Her self-doubt trips her up but it never brings her down for long. Her life is full of more comforts and luck than most but this time round I can’t begrudge her any of it because it’s clear that whatever her circumstances, she would keep stumbling and falling forwards until she landed in the right place.
The story ends on December 31st making it a perfect Christmas read to inspire hope for a new year, but we tired and busy people need time so no harm in starting it now.
First published in Issue 13, Widows and Widowers magazine