The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole by Sue Townsend

6th May 2010

The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole by Sue Townsend

Every generation has a literary hero. Whilst the teens of today idolise Harry Potter and Bella Swan, the thirty-somethings had a very different idol: Adrian Mole.

This dorky, socially inept teen was devoid of magic powers, supernatural spouses or an evil nemesis. But for millions of teens, reading about the misadventures and romantic failures of the teenage boy (whose story continued through a further nine books) through his diaries was oddly reassuring.

The comedic stories/diaries of Adrian are actually written by Sue Townsend, and her attention to detail and ability to get right into the mind of an angsty teenage boy makes this an addictive read. Townsend refuses to shy away from the awkward and, frankly, downright embarrassing periods of puberty and growing up in the eighties. Imagine The Office’s David Brent as a teenager, and you’ve got an idea of the kind of cringe-related sniggering you’ll experience reading this book.

Adrian’s story starts at the age of 13¾, and focuses on his struggle with being ‘an intellectual’, not overly popular with his peers and in love with Pandora, a fellow ‘intellectual’ who no longer returns his love. Family life revolved around periods of unemployment, extramarital affairs and a shaky relationship with his mother.

Despite the fact the first diary was based in 1982, a lot of the themes are still relevant for the current day. Political unrest (Adrian grew up during the Thatcher years) unrequited love and the constant struggle to be ‘understood’ are all worries that teenagers currently battle. Particularly with the current emo generation.

Since the first diary documenting his early teenage years, Adrian Mole Aged 13¾, Townsend has written books following his entire life. The most recent addition, The Prostate Years, follows Adrian’s life as a forty-something father on the cusp of going broke.

Townsend’s books are by no means the story of an obvious hero, but you find yourself rooting for the lead character to settle down with his childhood sweetheart and achieve his dream of becoming a bestselling author (and in turn become recognised as an ‘intellectual’), despite his faults. Funny, clever and occasionally sweet, this is a must read for anyone who prefers to soak up the story of the reality of growing up, rather than the embarrassment-free lives of a set of polished characters. You can buy the first book in the series for £5, from Amazon.

Post by Emma Cossey


  • Cariad Martin says:

    I loved this series as a kid and then when I went back to read it again in my late teens, I had to give up because he was such a wang.

    But I might give it a go again since you mention the 1980s/Thatcher/political unrest stuff, I think it would all be incredibly relevant at the moment.

    Let’s hope I can get passed his douchebag-ness this time!