Cover Detail from Adrian Mole by Sue Townsend

2 Adrian Moles by Sue Townsend

In 2007 and thereabouts it became popular for music albums to be advertised with the tagline 'An album that defines a generation'. This pithy line was often spoken by Jo Whiley in her smokiest tones and seemed to be applied to most of the albums released between 2007 and 2008. Evidently a lot of albums defined a generation.

Read about the BBC Big Read List

Coming in at #112 on the BBC Big Read list is a book that for me, truly defined my generation. It was reading it again at the grand old age of 40 something that I came to realise how much these books impacted me as a teenager.

The Plot

The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole aged 13 and 3/4

Meet Adrian Mole, a hapless teenager providing an unabashed, pimples-and-all glimpse into adolescent life. Writing candidly about his parents' marital troubles, the dog, and his life as a tortured poet and 'misunderstood intellectual', Adrian's painfully honest diary is still hilarious and compelling reading thirty years after it first appeared.

The Growing Pains of Adrian Mole

The troubled teenager continues to struggle valiantly against the slings and arrows of growing up and his own family's attempts to scar him for life. In between the ups and downs of his relationship with the divine Pandora and worrying that his genius is going unrecognized, Adrian Mole chronicles the pains and pleasures of a misspent adolescence.

My Thoughts

A quick note, I would strongly recommend reading these in order starting with 13 3/4. Here you see Adrian at his youngest. Growing Pains immediately follows on after the airfix incident.

I first read these books as a teenager then at our bookshop book group and now with the family book group. Each time, without fail, it makes me laugh out loud. And by laugh, I mean snort tea out of my nose.

Adrian is hapless, a self-absorbed teenager, convinced he is an intellectual and therefore a cut above everyone else. He is oblivious to everything and his poetry is hysterical.

But we also see how kind he can be, particularly to Bert Baxter, an 88 year old man he meets during social studies. Through Adrian's eyes we see first love when he meets Pandora, first loss, when he breaks up with Pandora and the loss of a beloved character. It's extremely poignant and the scenes when Queenie dies and we witness Adrian's thoughts about the funeral are quite humbling. Adrian may be sensitive, but it is in this sensitivity that we see our own feelings mirrored back at us.

But you will spend a lot of this book laughing, the ill-fated school trip to London which end with the class being rounded up by the police, the descriptions of Adrian choosing to paint over his Noddy wallpaper with black paint and being thwarted by Noddy and his 'bloody bells'.

There is also so much warmth. His family, neighbours, celebrations, Christmases gone by. All could be the stories of my childhood. It is also a social comment on Thatcher's era when unemployment was high and those claiming benefits increased every day.

This really is a remarkable set of books, a social history, and after 30 odd years, I remember passages of the books with clarity. Interestingly my family, were not that enamoured with it. But it is one of my sister-in-laws favourite books. Maybe this novel defined MY generation. Sue Townsend for me still remains one of the funniest authors of her generation. And thank God for Adrian Mole!