Saturday, 26 April 2014

THE SECRET DIARY OF ADRIAN MOLE, AGED 13¾ - Sue Townsend, 1992

Like many, many people my age, this book was essential reading when it was first published.
My friends and I knew it by heart. Or rather, as I now realise, we knew it by rote, for I see how little I actually understood it. Adrian’s Dad watching children’s television and pretending to be a tree is not, as we thought, the funniest part of the book. Nor is Adrian’s account of his wet dream the most controversial.
Clearly, I understood little about irony in the early 1980s and I was not well-read enough to recognise the literary references either.
I’m not really sure how I came to read it again this year but now I’m hooked and eager to read the following novels in the series.
This is a multi-layered narrative, presented through the eyes of a teenage boy, a device which, incidentally, allows Sue Townsend to provide a controversial commentary on issues from family life to the Falklands War.
On one level we get the obvious day to day trials and tribulations of Adrian Mole, a typical teenage boy. This is the level which I remember enjoying over 30 years ago. Back then, as teenagers today would, I think, we associated with his journey, through the turmoil of adolescence, exemplified by his burgeoning relationship with Pandora, the girl of his dreams.
In addition, we experienced his reaction to his parents’ marital crisis; amusing in its accurate representation of a social – and personal – catastrophe.
But the finest and most amusing element now, I find, concerns Adrian’s attempts at self-intellectualisation. He claims to have read Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Crash and Wuthering Heights (wishing he could take Pandora somewhere high to celebrate their love) and A Town Like Alice, which his father thinks has been written by Lewis Carroll. There is also the fabulous entry: Just finished War and Peace. It was quite good.
There are in-jokes a-plenty for those who have read the classics: Adrian writes to a certain prisoner called Grace Poole who is incarcerated for arson.

With the recent sad death of Sue Townsend this is given even more poignancy. The Secret Diaer of Adrian Mole is a true modern classic.

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