"Adrian Mole's first love, Pandora, has left him; a neighbour, Mr. Lucas,
appears to be seducing his mother (and what does that mean for his
father?); the BBC refuses to publish his poetry; and his dog swallowed
the tree off the Christmas cake. "Why" indeed."
Epistolary novels - such as, most popularly, Flowers for Algernon, the Bridget Jones series, and The Color Purple - have been enjoyed by the public for centuries, with Bram Stoker's Dracula arguably being one of the first. However, perhaps nobody could have estimated the explosive impact that Sue Townsend's Adrian Mole series would have when it first appeared on the market in the early 1980s. It was perhaps the first series to truly encapsulate teenage awkwardness and pretension, and it all kicked off with The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, set during Margaret Thatcher's time as prime minister, when protagonist Adrian is approaching his fourteenth birthday.
Townsend convincingly portrays the naïveté and arrogance commonly associated with one's teenage years, using Adrian and his friends as conduits, while simultaneously showing adults as imperfect, with humour and panache. Despite this, though, there is also affection: we don't look down upon Adrian (too much - the rule of superiority still applies in Townsend's comedy), but rather sympathise with him in recognising elements of ourselves in his emergence from childhood's chrysalis.
The fictional diary format and inclusion of dialogue helps to keep up The Secret Diary's pace, and we are keen to know what will become of the book's burgeoning romances and characters' ambitions (both trivial and serious) against the background of the 1980s' familiar political landscape. Regardless of the reader's own feelings towards the Thatcher administration, it is possible to gain an insight into family life at that time, which is particularly valuable for those with no first-hand experience of Thatcher's Britain. Equally, though, this does not dominate to the point of exclusion: the stories of Adrian and his family and friends always come first.
By the end of The Secret Diary, readers want to continue following Adrian's life with earnest - and with over 20 million copies sold of this volume alone, it's clear that Townsend's germination of a successful epistolary series has worked better year on year than perhaps anyone could have imagined.
other novels by Sue Townsend
The Growing Pains of Adrian Mole (1984)
Rebuilding Coventry (1988)
The True Confessions of Adrian Albert Mole (1989)
The Queen and I (1992)
Adrian Mole: The Wilderness Years (1993)
Ghost Children (1997)
Adrian Mole: The Cappuccino Years (1999)
Number Ten (2002)
Adrian Mole and the Weapons of Mass Destruction (2004)
Queen Camilla (2006)
The Lost Diaries of Adrian Mole, 1999-2001 (2008)
Adrian Mole: The Prostrate Years (2009)
The Woman Who Went To Bed For A Year (2012)
Public Confessions of a Middle-Aged Woman (2012)
First three Chapters....
8 years ago