I love the Adrian Mole series. They’re funny, bittersweet, ironic and socially conscious. They are also a snapshot of the contemporary times in which they were written, with Adrian’s diary presented as if it were real. The first book is therefore set in 1981-2 and refers to events such as the Royal Wedding, Falklands War and the formation of the Social Democratic Party. It also spotlights the burning social issues of the day, such as divorce, latchkey kids, second-wave feminism and racial identity. What I find interesting on my latest re-read is how different things are now. As with The Diary of a Nobody (which, as I mentioned before, popularised the ‘funny diary’ genre), Adrian Mole’s diary is now a classic bestseller. Society and culture have changed a little, although adolescence will always be awkward.
I first read this book when I was younger than Adrian’s 13 and three quarter years. He’d now be 53! I’ve seen the book categorised as children’s or YA, but I think it’s funnier if you read it as an adult and I’m sure it was intended for adults (the later books in the series certainly are). Either way, there are characters you can identify with, whatever your stage of life.
This short book consists of diary entries for just over a year, ending with Adrian turning 15. He falls in love, his parents’ marriage breaks down, the dog causes no end of trouble, he accidentally starts a revolution at school and he makes friends with a foul elderly communist. Adrian takes himself very seriously, having the misfortune of being an ‘intellectual’ from a working-class background, yet admittedly not being that clever. His hobbies include writing awful poetry, going to the ‘off-the-streets’ youth club and measuring the length of his ‘thing’.
I was privileged to see the musical adaptation of this book, at Leicester Curve Theatre in 2015. It was brilliant! Sadly, Sue Townsend did not live to see it. I used to enjoy watching the 1985 TV series, which had a catchy theme tune by Ian Dury.
First published in 1982. My edition is the 1983 Methuen paperback.