My Life In Books: The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole

All of the books in Sue Townsend’s series about the hapless Adrian Mole are worth reading, but this is the book that kicked it off. I’ve actually read this book a couple of times, but I was remninded of it by Diane Dooley’s post for Monday’s Friend.

The reason I want to include this book in the My Life in Books series is that I think the impression you get from it varies depending on whether you’re reading it as an adult or a teenager. The first time I read this book, I was 13 – the same age as Adrian. I felt a great deal of sympathy for him. He was a misunderstood young man being oppressed by his family, who didn’t understand him and didn’t treat him fairly – and at that age, I thought I could relate to that. I thought at the time Sue Townsend did a pretty good job of remembering what it was like to be 13.

I read this book again as an adult, and formed an entirely different impression of Adrian. He’s naive and ignorant. He’s not nearly as clever as he thinks he is, and his efforts to be an intellectual come across as painfully embarrassing and very funny.

So as an adolescent I sympathised with Adrian. As an adult I laughed at him. But I daresay I was equally pathetic, and equally melodramatic, as a 13-year-old. This seems to be an obligatory stage of growing up that fortunately most of us grow out of.

The books about Adrian Mole carry him all the way through puberty, through adulthood and into middle age, in the more recent books (though I haven’t read them all yet – ADRIAN MOLE AND THE WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION is still on my TBR pile). Although he does grow up, he retains that comical ignorance that we’ve come to know and love. The middle-aged Adrian Mole still thinks he’s an intellectual. But the reality is, he’s really not very bright. But those of us who have followed him through his life feel like he’s an old friend – that one who you always stick with, because although they can be annoying, you still love them despite their flaws.

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