Girl talk

Bridget Jones: the edge of reason

Helen Fielding <em>Picador, 422pp, £6.99</em>

ISBN 0330367358

Poor Bridget Jones has a lot to answer for: a craze for pronounless prose, girlie columns and a scarily skinny American sitcom star. It is little wonder that, by the time of her return in a sequel to the bestselling Diary, the backlash was waiting. One critic (who sounded rather like Bridget's mum) even pointed out that Bridget was far too old now to be carrying on in this way - well, true, but who's counting? The big question was: RIP, or long live Bridget Jones?

Well, if it ain't broke don't fix it seems to have been Helen Fielding's approach: best mates Jude and Shazzer, gay Tom, smug married Magda, BJ's impossible mother and doting dad are all back for more of the same. But Bridget has moved with the times; she has upgraded from Cafe Rouge, and self-help books have replaced her addiction to Lottery Instants. It's 1997, the year of pashminas, Agent Provocateur, Tony Blair's victory (Bridget imagines having sex with him) and Princess Diana's death (Bridget leaves a Vogue and a packet of Silk Cut outside Kensington Palace).

What makes Bridget Jones successful isn't the calorie-counting, sad singleton stereotype (as the innumerable terrible imitations prove); it's Fielding's unbeatable comic dialogue and set pieces. If Bridget Jones's Diary was a modern-day Pride and Prejudice, The Edge of Reason is rather more Persuasion (meets Jean-Paul Sartre, obviously). Sometimes Fielding seems to be trying to repeat the winning formula rather too faithfully, with additions to Bridgetspeak or the sermons on celibacy, best friends and single life. The Richard Curtis-style ending suggests that there might not be a trilogy. But then, three would, surely, be pushing her luck. Anyway, Bridget is back again with her own film soon. Hurrah?

This article first appeared in the 19 June 2000 issue of the New Statesman, The New Statesman Profile - the matriarchs