Review of ‘Adrian Mole: The Cappuccino Years’ by Sue Townsend

What were you up to in 1997-8? The Cappuccino Years is the first Adrian Mole diary which covers an era that I’m old enough to remember. I was too young to know about the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal and the transfer of Hong Kong to China. I’m not sure I even knew about the death of Princess Diana, but I’m almost certain that I remember the election frenzy which swept Tony Blair’s Labour Party into power. Ultimately, I’m left with the Spice Girls and Teletubbies. I remember those, for sure. And of course Opal Fruits (which Adrian has an addiction to) – these were actually renamed Starburst in the UK in 1998.

A short leap after The Wilderness Years, this diary sees Adrian in his thirties, working as a chef in Soho, divorced and a single dad. He quite often finds himself living in his parents’ house again and wonders what has really changed. He’s still not over Pandora, who’s an ambitious MP, one of the ‘Blair babes’. As usual, his naivety provides some humour – he wonders why there’s ‘talcum powder’ on his boss’s nose, he is writing a play which the BBC inexplicably aren’t interested in, he can’t tell that women are attracted to him until it’s too late. Social class is, as always, a main theme, evidenced here by the differences between his and Pandora’s parents (who have embarrassingly swapped partners). There’s also the welcome return of Nigel, Adrian’s former best friend, who’s now out of the closet. I can’t ever think of anything to fault with these diaries because although they’re funny, they seem more like real diaries than novels. There’s definitely a story arc, a pattern of rise and fall, but it doesn’t matter so much.

First published in 1999. Strangely described on the back cover as ‘Twenty-first century Mole’. Either they didn’t check what years the diary covers, or they meant that the book is being read in the 21st century.

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