By Joy Tipping The Dallas Morning News
When a character like Bridget Jones is so beloved that she becomes something of a virtual best friend, it's devastating to loyal, emotional readers when she just up and disappears for 13 years. (It was only two years between "Bridget Jones' Diary" in 1998 and "Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason" in 2000.)
After such a long wait, it's a grand delight to find that author Helen Fielding's third Bridget romp is every bit as engaging, hilarious and sometimes downright naughty as the first two: perfect light reading after a long day of holiday shopping, online dating or herding co-workers.
In "Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy," our bestie has become the dreaded "woman of a certain age" "over 50" struggling to raise her two young children alone after Mark Darcy has departed the family (if you haven't already seen the spoilers, I'm not about to be the one to tell you how he leaves).
She's entered cougar territory, dating a younger guy nicknamed Roxter with whom she first bonded on Twitter. When Bridget first tries Twitter, she fumbles a bit: "Cannot figure out how to put up photo. Is just empty egg-shaped graphic. Is fine! Can be photo of self before was conceived."
Remember how new and fresh Bridget's email exchanges with Darcy seemed in the first book, waayyyy back in 1998? Now it would seem weird if Bridget and Roxter hadn't met via social media.
The age difference isn't a problem until Bridget realizes, with a certain dismay, that she'll be taking her boyfriend, on his 30th birthday, to a girlfriend's coinciding 60th birthday party.
As for work, Bridget has ventured into screenwriting, crafting an update of "the famous Norwegian tragedy 'Hedda Gabbler' by Anton Chekhov, only set in Queen's Park." The studio people, though, "want to bring in a 60s/70s glamorous feel ... like the original Pink Panther with David Niven and Peter Sellers," only set in Hawaii on a yacht. They're also fairly blase to find out it's Gabler with one "b" and it's by the Norwegian Henrik Ibsen, not the Russian Anton Chekhov.
Communication with friends, the studio people and potential suitors almost exclusively via texting, Twitter and Facebook flummoxes Bridget more than she'd like to admit. She discovers the downside of texting while drunk after an ill-advised exchange with a hook-up she knows only as "Leatherjacketman":
"You see, this is the trouble with the modern world. If it was the days of letter writing, I would never have even started to find a pen, a piece of paper, an envelope, a stamp and Leatherjacketman's home address and gone outside at 11:30 p.m. with two children asleep in the house to find a postbox.
"A text is gone at the brush of a fingertip, like a nuclear bomb or an Exocet missile."
Bridget finally trolls Amazon for comfort with both missing Darcy and navigating life as a middle-aged single mum. You can understand her instinct to just bury herself under the covers and quietly waste away. But she forges onward, in fine Bridget fashion, and the book's ending is an unexpected, sweet surprise.
Bridget fans certainly won't be disappointed here. Helen Fielding: Please don't make us wait another 13 years for "Bridget Jones: Grandma's Revenge."
"Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy" by Helen Fielding; Knopf (400 pages, $26.95)