Author: Sue Townsend
Date: 1982 (originally published), 2012 (30th anniversary edition)
Format: Paperback (259 pages)
Synopsis: “Friday January 2nd: I felt rotten today. It’s my mother’s fault for singing ‘My Way’ at two o’clock in the morning at the top of the stairs. Just my luck to have a mother like her. There is a chance my parents could be alcoholics. Next year I could be in a children’s home.”
Meet Adrian Mole, a hapless teenager providing an unabashed, pimples-and-all glimpse into adolescent life. Telling us candidly about his parents’ marital troubles, The Dog, and his life as a tortured poet and ‘misunderstood intellectual’, Adrian’s painfully honest diary is still hilarious and compelling reading thirty years after it first appeared.
Apparently, having been born and raised in Britain, I must have been living under a rock not to have read any of the Adrian Mole books before. He was the Harry Potter of the 1980s and Sue Townsend was the equivalent of J.K. Rowling. The books were read by children, teenagers and adults alike – and they still are. Since it was set in the late 1980s when Margaret Thatcher was our Prime Minister and I was just a toddler, there were a few cultural references which went over my head, but that didn’t affect my enjoyment of the novel.
This was, hands down, one of the funniest books I have ever read. It takes a lot for a book to make me have a visible reaction since I usually keep my thoughts to myself while I’m reading, but this one had me full on laughing out loud to the point of tears. The whole novel is told through a series of Adrian’s diary entries, written over the course of a year, during which time he has to deal with hopeless and selfish parents, a grumpy elderly man he befriends, and the demands of Pandora, the love of his life.
I love Adrian’s way of looking at things. Life constantly lets him down and yet he takes it all in his stride with a deadpan wit that I really enjoyed. For example, when he tries to explain his troubled home life to his teacher, the response is less than satisfactory (and provides an insight into the politically incorrect days of the 1980s!):
Friday September 11th: Had a long talk with Mr Dock. I explained that I was a one-parent family child with an unemployed, bad-tempered father. Mr Dock said he wouldn’t care if I was the offspring of a black, lesbian, one-legged mother and an Arab, leprous, hump-backed-dwarf father as long as my essays were lucid, intelligent and unpretentious. So much for pastoral care! (p.159)
I think my favourite entry was from Saturday September 19th when Adrian gives a blow-by-blow account of a class trip to London with a drunken coach driver. Here’s an extract:
9.40 – Barry Kent sick in coach.
9.50 – Two girls sitting near Barry Kent are sick.
9.51 – Coach driver refuses to stop on motorway.
9.55 – Ms Fossington-Gore covers sick in sand.
9.56 – Ms Fossington-Gore sick as a dog.
4pm – Barry Kent jumps in fountain at Trafalgar Square, as predicted by Adrian Mole.
4.30 – Barry Kent disappears, last seen heading towards Soho.
6pm – Barry Kent found in sex shop. Charged with theft of ‘grow-it-big’ cream and two ‘ticklers’.
7pm – Coach leaves police station with police escort. (pp.163-165)
This book doesn’t have a compelling plot or well developed characters, but it doesn’t need to. It’s hilarious. I would highly recommend it to anyone looking for a light read and a good laugh.
Overall Rating: My bookworm rating system is explained here.
Other Works by this Author: Sue Townsend wrote seven additional Adrian Mole books and seven other novels before she passed away in 2014. You can find out more about them by visiting her website here.