After Happily Ever After

So the new Bridget Jones novel is to be released in October and will be called Bridget Jones: Mad About The Boy.

When I first heard about this I was delighted. Bridget Jones’s Diary is one of the original chick lit books, and Bridget is a true chick lit heroine. Plagued with insecurities, far from perfect, dreaming of her Prince Charming, falling for the wrong man…she is someone many young women can relate to, even if not every young woman is lucky enough to have Colin Firth and Hugh Grant fighting over her.  Of course, the films of the novels are so closely intertwined in our hearts with the actual books that everyone’s first question when the news of book three surfaced was, “Will there be another film?” And, inevitably, “Will it have the same cast?”

That’s when I began to have my doubts. No disrespect to either Colin Firth or Hugh Grant but they have aged since The Edge of Reason. A lot. I can’t speak for Renee Zellwegger as I don’t think I’ve seen her in anything new for ages, but it’s been a while. Then the rumours began about the plot of book three and my heart sank. Bridget and Mark are married but are struggling to conceive – Bridget gets pregnant by Daniel Cleaver…what???

Obviously, it’s all speculation. I have no idea whether that particular plot line is pure fantasy from someone with no insider knowledge at all or if it’s straight from Helen Fielding’s pen, but it made me cringe. Bridget getting pregnant by that swine, Cleaver? Breaking Mark Darcy’s heart all over again? Nooooo!

The thing is, even if it isn’t true, there is something depressing about the fact that we will almost without question have to go through a rollercoaster of emotions with Bridget and Mark. This will not be a hearts and flowers book. Our favourite chick lit couple will not be allowed to be happy. The very nature of a romance novel means they will be tormented and tortured, thrown apart, have obstacles chucked in their path like grenades and have their hearts broken. I don’t like it.

When Mark and Bridget fell into each other’s arms at the end of The Edge of Reason, that was it. Job done. Happily Ever After. That’s how we learn about romance as children isn’t it? Cinderella was swept off her feet by Prince Charming. Snow White was saved by the handsome prince. Sleeping Beauty was awakened with a kiss. They all lived happily ever after. There was no sequel to tell us that Cinders cheated on the Prince because he couldn’t get her up the duff and she’d always had a sneaky crush on Buttons. There was no revelation in Snow White that the huntsman had saved her life because he secretly fancied her and, having confessed his love for her at the wedding, they began a sneaky affair behind the handsome prince’s back. Sleeping Beauty never announced she was buggering off back to bed because she was sick of her hubby leaving his socks on the bedroom floor and he spent too much time at work and she felt neglected. Oh no, happy ever after meant just that.

There are some who think The Edge of Reason was a step too far. Bridget had found her Mr Darcy in book one and it should have been left at that. Jane Austen, after all, never felt the need to write Pride and Prejudice: Trouble at Pemberley, (although many other writers have!)  Charlotte Bronte never wrote Jane Eyre: Married with Kids. So is it wise to revisit a couple after they have found their “happy ever after”?

Some fictional couples are revisited but as secondary characters in subsequent novels in a series. For instance, Jo Carnegie writes about the featured couple Benedict and Caro in several of her Churchminster novels, but they are mostly subplots after taking centre stage in book one. Jilly Cooper revives Rupert Campbell-Black in most of her Rutshire novels but again, as background. Once he had found happiness with Taggie she never pulled them apart again.

It can work, though. Tash and Hugo in Fiona Walker’s novels are two of my favourite characters in chick lit. Their story seemed to end quite happily in Well Groomed. Then, some years later, Fiona revisited them in Kiss and Tell. The perfect couple were put under extraordinary pressure. They didn’t just have rocks thrown at them, they had massive boulders hurled in their direction. They were torn apart, tormented and tortured by the wicked Ms Walker. And it worked. I loved it. It’s still my favourite book of Fiona’s. So, done right, it can be successful.

There are other books which finish with a teasing “happy for now” rather than a “happy ever after”. Sarah Tranter’s No Such Thing As Immortality, for example, leaves many questions unanswered and, although you just know that Nate and Rowan are meant for each other, you’re still not sure how it’s all going to pan out, what’s really going on, and if they can make it work. Books like this are ripe for a sequel and I’m delighted to report that there will be one.

But when the story is so clearly tied up neatly, as in Bridget Jones’s case, do we really want to know what happens next and watch as the magic starts to fade and our loved up couple fall apart again? Or would we prefer to close the book and keep them safe in our heads, imagining their happy ever after is just that?

I have mixed feelings about Bridget Jones: Mad About The Boy. In my mind Bridget and Mark have been living in bliss for fourteen long years and I don’t want that illusion spoiled. On the other hand, it’s a chance to meet up again with old friends, find out what they’ve really been up to, see how much they’ve changed and how they are coping with the demands of modern life. The horrific thing is, though, that Bridget must be now heading towards her fifties. Definitely more hen lit than chick lit now…

One thing is for certain, whatever my feelings, I’ll be buying it. I suspect it will be a best-seller. Whether it will be a hit with the readers is another question entirely.   What do you think? Will you be buying it? Would you rather leave Mark and Bridget in the world of your imagination? Or have you read other books that revisit couples you have loved in the past and been disappointed or delighted? Do let me know your opinion!

Have a great week x

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