The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Age 13 ¾
Sue Townsend"Friday January 2nd
I felt rotten today. It's my mother's fault for singing 'My Way' at two o'clock in the morning at the top of the stairs. Just my luck to have a mother like her. There is a chance my parents could be alcoholics. Next year I could be in a children's home."
Why? Why why why? Why have I never read this book before?
The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole is…as you could probably have guessed, the diary of a 13/14 year old boy, growing up in a working class family in Thatcher’s Britain. The whole novel is formatted like a real diary, with the date at the head of every entry and the various mentions of bank holidays and religious days.
And that’s it….there’s no real plot, no particular character development, no huge twists or reveals, it’s just a diary…and that’s what makes it great.
The whole book just feels so true to life, the events of the book play out in real time over the course of the year and the pacing feels very realistic.
A lot happens to Adrian over the course of 1982, he gets his first girlfriend, befriends an elderly man, Bert Baxter, as part of a school programme, attempts to start a school magazine, and gets his poems rejected by the BBC, most importantly of all, it’s the year that his parents divorce and his father loses his job.
In any other book these would be huge events with dramatic build ups and satisfying conclusions, here, these developments play out much as they would in real life. There’s no climatic moments that leads to his parents divorce, instead the couple argue more and more becoming less and less happy together until divorce is the only option.
His father doesn’t go through a whole arc about losing his job, his company just folds one day and just gets fired…
I can see why a lot of people might not like this approach to storytelling, after all, if it’s not going to stick to regular narrative devices, you’d be as well reading a real diary…but for me the style was fantastic. Real life doesn’t stick to a structure, things just sort of happen. Reading a story told in that way was a great experience. Not only was the story realistic, it was totally unpredictable. I had no idea where the story was going at times because none of the characters know where their lives are going either.
Adrian himself is a brilliant character and a perfect representation of a young teenage boy. A self described intellectual, he truly believes the world revolves around him. That’s he’s an undiscovered gem, a gift to the world hidden away in a teenage boys bedroom.
Reading his diary, it’s easy to find him an unlikeable character. He’s horrible to his parents and fails to see how their divorce would impact their lives, instead worrying only about how it will affect himself. He has nothing but horrible things to say about most of the characters in the book really, be it stupid teachers, the bad habits of his friends or the disgusting house of Bert Baxter but again…this unlikeable quality just makes the book more true to life.
At that age, most people are like Adrian Mole. Growing and learning about who they are, self centred and self assured. I found Adrian’s misplaced cockiness and self praise uncomfortable and worryingly familiar as I recognised a lot of my teenage self in the character.
What stops him being utterly irredeemable though is how funny he is, whether intentional or not. His sideways views at the world, his ability to trivialise the important while putting the trivial on a pedestal and his constant misunderstandings of the world around him are fantastic and I laughed out loud from start to finish while reading.
This book isn’t going to be everyone’s cup of tea, but those who get it will love it. It’s a hilarious if occasionally cringeworthy, book and I can’t wait to dive into the rest of the series and see where Adrian’s life takes him from here.