Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, Helen Fielding

Penguin, 1999, 338 pages, C$19.00 tpb, ISBN 0-14-029847-9

I really liked Helen Fielding’s Bridget Jones’s Diary and it seems as if I wasn’t the only one; the book remained one of Britain’s best-seller for quite some time. With this success, and a successful film adaptation, it was inevitable to see a sequel popping up in bookstores.

The good and the bad news about The Edge of Reason are that, overall, it’s more of the same thing. If you loved Bridget Jones in her first diary -and who didn’t?-, you’ll love her about as much in the second one. Our heroine is still adorably confused, the writing style still as brisk, and the overall effect quite sympathetic. If you loved the prequel, there’s no doubt that you’ll like The Edge of Reason.

Bridget begins her second diary scant weeks after the events of the first one; we find her still happily shacking up with Mark Darcy, the rock-solid barrister romantic hero of the first volume. All is well in paradise… or is it? A few obvious misunderstandings, comic interludes and disloyal incidents from acquaintances later, Bridget finds herself sort-of-single once again and determined to chuck all of her self-help books in the trash again.

Hey, don’t worry; Mr. Darcy isn’t all that far away, and neither is the happy ending. In the meantime, Bridget is free to make even more outrageous slip-ups, obsess some more about her body and suffer through the manias of her mother. You can’t do the same romantic shtick twice, and the second volume of the Bridget Jones series is slanted towards broader comedy.

As usual, some specific bits are laugh-aloud funny; a Colin Firth interview published verbatim (because Bridget goofed up once more) reads like the most asinine fan interview ever conducted. Furthermore, several of the funniest bits are self-contained in wonderful epigrams. You might even recognize moments of truth in Fielding’s prose. Your reviewer found himself laughing silly at the suggestions that Bridget was dumped for insufficient geographic knowledge, an incident with troubling similarities having happened in his immediate vicinity a few weeks before.

Alas, as comic bits go, Fielding also includes less-amusing moments. It’s not easy to milk humor from a suicide attempt (fortunately, not Bridget’s) nor a few days in prison, and indeed, the laughs feel far more forced during these moments. If you can’t stand situational comedy whose setup is required by stupid misunderstandings, chances are that you’ll have a few problems with this book, which depends heavily on Bridget and Mark Darcy not communicating effectively at several crucial moments.

The other big problem of The Edge of Reason is its occasional lack of relevance to the average reader. Everyone reading Bridget Jones’s Diary could identify with the protagonist or relate her to an acquaintance, mostly because her problems were so universal. Not so in the sequel; how many of us get to fly to Italy to interview Colin Firth, or take vacations in Thailand and then by framed for drug smuggling? Granted, it’s funny to see how Bridget reacts to these problems (she ends up lip-synching Madonna in prison) but on the other hand, it’s not something we’re likely to relate with our day-to-day lives. But, alas, maybe that’s the price to pay to extend a one-novel character… But as long as Bridget doesn’t find herself battling aliens by the third volume of the series, this isn’t cause for serious concern.

These caveats expressed, fans of the first volume can’t really go wrong by checking out The Edge of Reason. Sure, it’s more of the same, but when it’s as good as Bridget Jones’s Diary, why complain?

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