MadAbout My Book

In Book on October 16, 2013 at 10:23 am


What’s in a name? Everything when it’s the title of one of your favourites of your own books – and a mega-selling author brings one out using the same title.

I’m referring to my 2002 book Mad About the Boy – and Helen Fielding’s new sequel to Bridget Jones’ Diary, which she’s called the same thing.


It’s made me feel rather cross and churned up, as you can imagine, and I can’t decided whether I’m bitchily pleased Ms Fielding’s book has fewer stars than mine on Amazon – or is that a bad thing because people might confuse the poor reviews with my book?

And where will it leave the film project of my book, which someone has bought the rights for?


So I’ve decided the only way to deal with this odd situation is to stick to my general philosophy of life which is to accentuate the positive – as per the marvellous Bing Crosby and the Andrews Sisters song, which I first heard in The Singing Detective.

It’s used ironically in that extraordinary series by Dennis Potter (one of the best things ever shown on television, in my opinion), but I do vehemently believe in its basic sentiments.

If you go around life nursing all your little hurts and resentments, stroking and nurturing them like little baby hamsters, it just eats up all the energy you could be using to get on with exciting new things.


This is why I try never to bear grudges and always to be nice to people, even if they’ve been less than lovely to me. I have a quote from Dr Johnson at the top of my To Do list to remind me about this: ‘Kindness is in our power even when fondness is not…’

I also reflect on an old Serbian proverb my husband told me: ‘If people throw rocks at you, throw bread back.’


I don’t do this in a soppy, meek, victim way, but entirely out of self-interest, as I’m certain it bring me a happier and fulfilled life. So instead of feeling bitter about Helen Fielding’s book, I remind myself of all the lovely things its publication has prompted people to say to me on Twitter.

Here are some of them:

@TobyFlaneur ‘Mad About the Boy even more enjoyable the 3rd time around. I must get tickets to Sydney. Loved the Uncle!’

@sandraom ‘Will undoubtedly read latest #bridgetjones by Helen Fielding but seems silly she didn’t realise ‘Mad about the boy’ is a novel by @MaggieA’

@jcmumma ‘such a great book, all the characters are fantastic! Uncle Perky is my fave!’

@khamaeilon ‘To @GuardianBooks Nope. There is only one Mad About The Boy and that’s by @MaggieA One of my all time favourite books and opening paragraphs.’

So a massive thanks to all those tweeters – particularly Helen Ducal for the last one. And here is that opening paragraph:

‘I’ve got nothing against gay men – some of my best friends are homosexuals. I just didn’t expect my husband to be one too.’

untitled 2

If you haven’t read my Mad About the Boy and would like to meet Uncle Percy – my favourite of all my characters, I’ve ever invented – here’s where to find it.

This is the Penguin Australia site, with a longer extract from the beginning of the book.

In the UK it’s available here, as an e-book.,,9780141906676,00.html

Also available, from Amazon.

man overboord

As you will see from those links, the book has many different covers in it’s many different editions – it was a best seller in the UK and Australia and was translated into loads of different languages.


And if you enjoyed that clip from ‘The Singing Detective’, here’s another of my favourite scenes. To give it some context, it was an autobiographical piece, inspired by Potter’s experiences of suffering from a very acute form of psoriasis, all mashed up with his obsession with the work of Raymond Chandler (Phillip Marlowe, private eye, The Big Sleep etc…) and the music of his 1940s childhood.

  1. Maggie, I own and adore all of your books, and Mad About the Boy is possibly one of my most-read books. Sometimes I feel myself going back to your books a little too often and have to ration myself 🙂

    PS When the new Bridget Jones title was released, I woke up to a text from my Granny (ridiculously spritely, turning 79 tomorrow), who was VERY cross at your title being stolen.

    Love from your multi generational fans xoxo

  2. I love your book! In fact, I love all your books.. I just finished reading Cents and Sensibility for the second time.. I might have to dig up my copy of Mad About The Boy and re-read.. Thanks for the great and entertaining reads xx

  3. Maggie, Mad About the Boy is one of my all time favourites of yours as well. I do adore Percy and have often felt that you were rather precient in some of the political intrigue. I have it on audio book as well – made for some very distracted listening the first time (blush)!! Thank you for your philosophy tips here, love the kindness/fondness one, definitely one to keep in mind x

    • It was so weird what happened with the Quarantine Station – right after it was published! This often happens with my book. I must put a novelist who wins the lottery in the next one…

  4. I was just pottering in my local bookshop this arvo and saw the title ‘Mad about the Boy’ and wondered what this old gem written by the super-entertaining and funny Maggie A was doing on the new release table (I say ‘old’ affectionately)… and then I realised it was the new Bridget Jones and immediately lost interest (how could she kill him off, how could she?).

    I did wonder though, what the rules are around book titles and if we are allowed to take any old title we want – even if someone else has had a best seller with it? I’ve googled the working title of my novel multiple times and am relieved to always discover it is still mine-all-mine. But maybe I could just call it ‘The Luminaries’ instead? Ha.

    Lovely reminder Maggie about keeping yourself nice – all those nasty niggles and little bubbles of bitterness can be very aging on the face.


    • ha ha ha love your ‘ageing to the face’ point. So true. I do sometimes catch myself nursing a grievance and I make myself stamp on it quick smart. You can almost feel it lift from your shoulders.

      There is no copyright on titles – which is how come I’ve used song titles for mine no fewer than three times, so maybe I’ve been hoisted by my own petard! Mxxx

  5. It is infuriating, but yes, just rise above it, one of my friends named her children with my boy’s names not once but twice! She also bys the same clothes as me, I just smile and take it as a compliment and wonder at her lack of originality! You book is the better one and it may well sell more by default 🙂

    • Oh that is irritating – I’ve had an experience of that too. You can only take it as a compliment. This was more of a ‘oh that book was years ago, who cares?’, but I’m hoping it might remind people that they enjoyed my one and then they’ll buy my new one. There’s always an upside! x

      • Hi Maggie,
        We don’t need the reminder from HF’s title that we enjoyed your book- or a reminder to look out for your next one- that’s a given! Yours was laugh out loud funny & touching. Your twitter feeds are also hilarious. (Am new to twitter & realise what I’ve been missing). Love your positivity.
        Shana 😉

      • Thank yooooooooooooooooooou xxxxxxxxxx

  6. Maggie, I couldn’t believe it when I heard the news. I thought…how is that possible? What about copyright? There is already a fab book with that title, you can’t steal it! It is one of my favourites, although I love all of your books. A little too much. I haven’t read Cents and Sensibility (even though it is sitting by my bed) because I will be sad once I do – then I won’t have any Maggie books left to read! Don’t forget imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. P.S I’m so excited to think of your book as a film. P.P.S I just though this week your character Theo from Shall we Dance? Reminds me of Cara Delevingne. Exactly.

    • You are SO right about Cara Delevingne!!!!! You’ve nailed that! And I’m so glad to hear you are saving one of my books – I’m doing that with novelist Elizabeth Taylor (not the film star…) I hope I don’t cark it before I allow myself to read them all… xxx

  7. I saw the Helen Fielding book somewhere – iTunes store I think – and was quite horrified she could use a title from an already published book. I re-read your Mad About the Boy earlier this year when I was suffering acute pain with polymyalgia. It’s a terrific story and I read it slowly to savour every word. I adored uncle Percy too.
    I like to re-read the collections of your columns about once a year. I still scream with laughter at one in particular where you open up your mother’s garage to review the accumulated stuff within.

    • I don’t think they can even have bothered to check… Annoying, but true – or she may have seen it 10 years ago, when it came out and the name subliminally stuck in her head. Mx

  8. I have to say, it was the first thing I thought if when I saw the new BJ book promoted. I will read it but I just can’t imagine it will beat the original!

  9. Funnily enough, I was actually rereading my very well loved copy of Mad About the Boy as the news came out of the new Bridget Jones novel. It’s so loved that I am extremely thankful for e-books as I’m afraid I may start losing pages of my actual book in the not too distant future.

    Having thought about it a little, you may even be able to take it as a compliment, as it seems that Helen Fielding has been inspired by your excellent taste! Good on you for taking the high road – your classy attitude says it all!

    I absolutely adore your novels – they are constantly on loop & I may need to step away for a little while in fear of actually starting to memorise parts of each book! Bridget has nothing on the fabulous Uncle Perky whatsoever.

    By the way, would absolutely LOVE to see a Mad About the Boy movie made – fingers crossed!

  10. Oooh, I feel for you. How very dare she? You know what’s also irritating? When someone nicks your ideas for their blog. There’s no copyright on original ideas I know, but sheesh, when it’s SO obvious that a fellow blogger is slowly morphing into me, I want to stamp my orthotic-bound foot. Onward to even crazier posts

  11. Maggie, I hope you won’t be offended to hear this story, which I sincerely mean as a compliment. ‘Mad about the boy’ was released during my first year of university, the first time in my life when I had to weigh up the merits of going out for drinks/text books/diet-of-anything-other-than-instant noodles. As such I couldn’t afford a copy of your lovely book, even though I very much wanted to read it (pink cover with the fringe.) So, every few days or so I would casually wander into the campus bookshop and browse around for a little while before picking up ‘Mad about the boy’ and reading another chapter or two. I’m usually a very fast reader and would have finished it in a day, but due to this illicit-reading behaviour it took me weeks to finish, an experience I still recall fondly now that I can afford to support a serious book buying habit. So although you never would have received any royalties from my reading, I wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed it!

    • Emily, that is one of the best stories I’ve ever heard! Don’t you think, Maggie? I call that commitment with a capital ‘C’. I’m assuming you’ve bought the book since, though, Emily.
      Really looking forward to the new book, Maggie – but will probably read Bridget Jones in the meantime. I agree about not being bitter, and I love the line about it showing on the face – I’d never thought of that. As some famous singer said “Only kindness matters”.

    • I LOVE this story. Rarely have my cockles been so warmed xxxx

  12. Frankly I think Helen Fielding is mad (about everything) to be writing any book in which Mr Darcy – the endpoint of all plotlines – has died just so that Bridget can amusingly go chasing after Whipersnapper McHotpantses. It seems like the worst-judged and most contortionistic way to get BJ back to being a singleton so the book can explore older single women dating and cougarism. Ridiculous.
    She has clearly made some poor decisions on more than one front Maggie!

  13. Love your writing Maggie and am hoping the copycat title delivers some extra sales of your Mad About the Boy! Donna, Sydney

  14. You are right of course Maggie but still ..I would have thought Bridget has had her day . As a Woollahra born and bred girl ..woman , loved Mad about the Boy ..YOURS that is

  15. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, so we are told. I have all of your books Maggie (and all so graciously signed by yourself ;)) and they have pride of place on my shelves where they have been re-read, lent out, and now Miss 15 has started on them. Very much looking forward to your next book. Because I read lots I buy most of my books from the op-shop, then when I’m done I donate them back. Also if the book is a bit ordinary I don’t feel too bad about putting it aside when I’ve only paid $2 for it instead of full retail (why are books so expensive in Aust?!). But I very rarely see any of your titles in the op-shops, clearly they are all treasured!

  16. Well, you know what they say about holding a grudge – it’s like drinking a bottle of poison and waiting for the other person to die – it’ll kill you before them!

    I think this really put it into persepctive!

  17. Mad About The Boy is a favourite: I lived in Queen Street in Woollahra for a while in the late 80s /early 90s and you nailed the feel of it perfectly. In fact I am about to open a little vintage stall at Daylesford Mill Market (central Victoria, not the English one) and I have actually been looking at knitted chickens and ducklings a la Anteeks window to complement my blue and white china. I adore darling Uncle Perky and one of my favourite scenes is the Christmas Day scoffing of mangoes on the beach. Pure Sydney.

    So I am a bit miffed that your title has been rather slackly appropriated. Don’t authors/editors/publishers Google before they settle on a title? Der.

    I am doubly miffed that apparently, as per the above comments, Mr Darcy has been bumped off. That is right up there with Patrick being done away with in Offspring (Australian TV reference – think the angst of Bambi’s mother buying it and you will feel the extent of my pain).

    Anyway, I do agree with your take on this – miffedness and the related emotions can eat away at you (but karma can be a beautiful thing. Not that I am vindictive or anything).

    And thanks again, Maggie, for your fabulous writing. Yours were the first books I unpacked when we moved to the sticks; the ones I read while Mum was fading away last year.

    I am glad there are other crazy people out there who read your books as obsessively as me. They are my comfort food (David Jones Food Hall quality, not Maccas).

    Happy writing!

    • Oh dear, late 80s/early 90s Woollahra, sounds like Wattle Flat Jane and I might as well be in the book (gasp!, so pretty wasn’t/isn’t it?) … Maggie I confess, this is one of yours that I haven’t read yet. Will try to get my hands on a copy asap. Regardless, Fielding’s people were nongs to not check first – such a great title. Thanks for the compliments on our drinks trays ,etc … that old antipodean isolationist thing, must have tangible old school reminders of more ‘civilized’ times and places cued up for the wind down part of the day … some of the poshest pre-dinner drinks I have had the pleasure of enjoying have been “way out in the sticks” … “mustn’t let the side down” etc, etc chin chin. BX

  18. Ooh Maggie – so excited to hear about the movie rights (hope you don’t mind me being so familiar with your first name!). Double the value – we can read your story and then see it on the big screen. I hear it can be a long and convoluted road to the actual movie so it may be some years off, but how lovely if it was filmed in Sydney!
    Love your books – its a summer ritual to make sure I have the New MA to take on holiday!
    Completely agree with not using negative energy to hate – use positive energy to make yourself feel good about a tricky situation.
    Love your twitter posts too

    • Not sure where they are up to with the film… and I fear the Fielding book will be registered as a movie in Hollywood already, but they can make mine with a different title! x

  19. How very, very irritating!! Wouldn’t you think a publishing house would do a title search before going to print to check a title not already taken? Plainly not. Good to know you are rising above it dear Maggie. BX PS Sure HER book won’t be half as good as yours!

  20. I actually noticed this when I saw she was bringing out a new book. I made a comment that the title was one of my favourite books but it was completely ignored. Either way, I’m super excited the rights have been bought. Fingers crossed we’ll get to see a movie soon!

  21. According to Wikipedia, there’s yet another book called Mad About the Boy, written by a Karen Mason. I think hers was published after yours though Maggie.

    • There’s no copyright on titles… which is how I got to pinch a song title! So I’m just as naughty, but it’s so galling with a book in the same genre as mine xxx

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