Even with mixed reviews, Mad About the Boy sells 23,000 copies in past week as shopping season begins in earnest
She was the original 1990s chick lit heroine, who spawned a generation of copycat novels featuring thirtysomething singletons and made the turkey curry buffet a national institution. Now, Bridget Jones is tipped to top the Christmas hardback fiction chart after selling 23,000 copies this week.
Published 17 years after Bridget Jones first appeared, Mad About the Boy is the third novel to feature Helen Fielding's calorie-counting, ciggie-smoking heroine and finds her aged 51 and tragically widowed.
Reviews were mixed, but the novel flew straight to the top of the charts on publication in October, selling 46,000 copies in a single day and outstripping Edge of Reason in its first month of sales. Though it remained in the top spot for three weeks before gradually falling, the Christmas market now sees her soaring high again as gift-buying begins in earnest.
Bridget recaptured the top spot in the hardback fiction charts from Terry Pratchett, whose Raising Steam sold 20,468 copies in the past week. Third-placed Saints of the Shadow Bible, by Ian Rankin, sold 11,885 copies, according to the official book charts company Nielsen BookScan.
Introducing the novel to the Guardian book club earlier this month, Fielding attributed her heroine's enduring appeal to "just being human" in the age of air-brushed photos. "In the media age we're inundated with images of physical perfection," she said. "If Bridget has achieved anything it's to show that looking pretty and carrying an enormous handbag is far less important than just being human, warm-hearted, and kind."
Bridget has come a long way since her days when Bridget Jones's Diary: A Novel was first published in 1996, and has moved on from her (partially) functional relationship stage in The Edge of Reason, out in 1999.
Fans were dismayed by Fielding's decision to kill series heart-throb Mark Darcy in the latest book, leaving Bridget a widow, but it seems now they have forgiven all and are flocking back to read about her latest travails as a single mother of two.
The first two books have sold 15m copies worldwide, and were turned into films starring Renée Zellweger, Colin Firth and Hugh Grant. The first, adapted from Bridget Jones's Diary, came in 2001, with the sequel following in 2004. The film company Working Title has acquired rights to the third book, for a production provisionally titled Bridget Jones's Baby. But with a script that lacks Darcy, played by Firth in the first two films, and with Grant's character Daniel Cleaver now more receding than racy, the production is grappling with creative challenges.
Dan Franklin, head of Jonathan Cape, UK publisher of the latest Jones instalment, said it was "no surprise" the latest book had scooped the No 1 spot for a second time in a season. "This is a wonderful novel with the power to both amuse and move across the generations," he said.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010