The third Bridget Jones book was released a couple of weeks ago to something of a savaging by the press and the feminist lobby. But neither they nor the loss of her beloved Mark, can hold Bridget down and 'Mad About The Boy' rocketed straight to #1 in the bestsellers list, on 'Super Thursday' of all days. And so it was rather noble of Helen Fielding to eschew (even if only for a few hours) the glamorous, shiny parties which no doubt awaited her to celebrate her triumphant return to the literary scene. Instead, on the day of her new book's release, Fielding took the creaky stage at Cecil Sharp House (home of the English Folk Dance and Song Society) on the border of Camden and Primrose Hill, in front of a roomful of Bridget fans and local worthies. Herself a resident of Primrose Hill (when she is not spending the school holidays in Los Angeles apparently), Fielding was joined by another local resident, and a formidable interviewer, Radio 4 legendary broadcaster Sue MacGregor. And it soon became clear that this cold October evening was as much about Primrose Hill as it was about Bridget Jones or even Helen Fielding.
The introduction to the evening made it clear that the event was first and foremost a fundraiser for the Primrose Hill Community Library. Now run as a community effort, following funding cuts from the local borough council, the library is kept alive by kind donations of both time and money. The money paid for out tickets for example, was to be donated to the library's cause. Both Fielding and MacGregor were lending their support as locals. As was much of the literary, arty Primrose Hill set, it seemed. When grilled about her professional experience, Fielding name dropped like a seasoned LA schmoozer. "Well you know, Richard, Richard Curtis. He's over there somewhere..." she gestured towards the front row as the assembled crowd craned its neck to catch a glimpse of the director.
Excellently prepped - even knowing the end of the third book and how Bridget's Mr Darcy met his untimely end - MacGregor's questions took the audience through the professional career of Helen Fielding; from her first (and highly underrated) first novel - 'Cause Celebre' through to the filming of the two Bridget Jones movies. Cue more frantic name-dropping. ("Telling Colin - Colin Firth, that is - that Mark Darcy was dead in this book was like informing him a real person had died!"). And the audience - filled with Primrose yummy mummies with surprisingly immobile, permatanned faces, and a few literary types, draped with scarves and glasses on chains round their necks - giggled along delightedly.
As the interview, and the brief Q&A session which followed, drew to a close. The ladies (yep, there were only a handful of men in the audience - and a couple of them admitted they were journalists who were only there for work) lined up in their masses to have Fielding autograph their copies of 'Mad About The Boy'. I passed on the offer myself, waiting a while longer to see how Bridget's latest adventure would pan out. I sort of wondered whether 51 year old Bridget would speak to me in the way that 20-something Bridget had. Would the school-run and toyboy flirtations be as amusing or relevant to me as drunken nights out with her mates and a desperate desire to progress her career beyond that of an admin assistant? I'm sure we'll reconnect one of these days; my curiosity to learn how her life turns out will get the better of me, I know. But when it does, at least I know there's no risk of us ever having to share a soggy school tent halfway up a mountain again...