What To Expect From the Third Bridget Jones Novel: Twitter and Parenting

Slate's Culture Blog
Feb. 5 2013 5:46 PM

What To Expect From the Third Bridget Jones Novel

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Colin Firth and Renée Zellweger in Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason

© 2004 Universal Studios and Studio Canal and Miramax Film Corp.

After the third Bridget Jones movie, Bridget Jones’ Baby, stalled last year, it seemed as though the potty-mouthed British heroine might finally be left to live happily ever after with Darcy (Mark, not Fitzwilliam). Alas, such joy cannot last when there is money to be made. Knopf has just announced that they will release a third Bridget Jones novel—unrelated to the planned film—in November.

As strong as the financial motivations for a new book are—the first two novels, Bridget Jones’ Diary and Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, sold over 15 million copies in 40 countries—the creative ones seem surprisingly compelling as well. The book has been expected in the U.K. for a few months already, and author Helen Fielding gave an interview with the BBC back in November that offers some reasons for optimism—and some for trepidation. It also brought to mind an important question: Which Jane Austen novel will inspire the story this time?

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In the interview, Fielding said she was inspired by the changes in technology in the 14 years since the second novel. “I just found last spring I had a new subject I had new stuff I wanted to say and things that were making me laugh,” she said. “Things that didn’t exist when I wrote the last Bridget—like emails, really. And texting. The way life is lived through texting and Twitter and a whole new idea for a phase of her life.” When asked about Bridget’s current tally of calories, alcohol, and cigarettes—noted repeatedly, diary-style, in the first two books—she said, “It’s actually more like ‘number of Twitter followers: 0. Still no followers. Still no followers.’ ”

The best bits in the first two had nothing to do with absurd plot twists (a drug arrest in Thailand, really?), or even the Jane Austen parallels, and had everything to do with Bridget’s very particular voice. Hilarious terms like “emotional fuckwit” were dropped in among the diaristic abbreviations (“v.” for “very” and so on), creating a rhythm that could quickly stick in your head. The incorporation of these new technologies seems like a perfect fit for the quippy, self-obsessed Bridget.

But can Fielding resist recycling the ever-turning Mark Darcy and Daniel Cleaver romance wheel? She’s declined to comment on whether the dueling love interests turn up again, saying simply, “Some characters remain and some may have disappeared… People stay in your life, but everyone’s life moves on.” And it sounds as though the new book will be thematically very similar to the earlier novels. “In the same ways the first Bridget book was looking at the way a 30-something single woman was branded as a tragic spinster and then we got the new idea of a singleton,” Fielding says, the third book is “looking at later phases in life where you get branded as a certain thing, and you don’t have to be that at all, and all it’s all outdated and ridiculous.”

As the Guardian points out, this could be an excuse to retread old ground, particularly the aforementioned love triangle. But if the novel instead offers an insightful look at the challenges faced by middle-aged women in the era of internet dating and mommy-blogging, that might be reason enough for Bridget to return. And she will most likely have a child: Fielding says that the novel will occur after the events of the planned third movie, which is based on columns from 2005 and 2006, in which Bridget got pregnant.

Which may mean that Jane Austen gets a reprieve this time around: Austen’s heroines are all just starting out in life. Though a more grown-up Bridget struggling with parenting and financial difficulties might be a clever match with Sense and Sensibility’s story of familial obligation… Whatever Fielding decides to do (or not) with her beloved Austen, I am, somewhat to my surprise, curious to see where Bridget Jones has found herself more than a decade down the line.

Alex Heimbach is a freelance writer based in Brooklyn. You can follow her on Twitter.