Sue Townsend’s The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13 ¾ is an offbeat comedic novel that chronicles the everyday – literally, everyday – life of Adrian Mole. This book is a classic portrayal of the inner struggles of an adolescent boy.
I find Adrian Mole’s diary uproariously funny. Adrian Mole is your average adolescent who goes through life thinking about nothing except chasing the love of his life, Pandora, and achieving his dreams to become a writer. Unfortunately, life does not seem to offer him anything but failure (in bold, capitalized letters).
Adrian Mole is the only child of George and Pauline Mole, who at the time are going through a rough patch. Both are working class citizens but are unable to make ends meet for the family. Pauline eventually leaves George and runs off with their neighbor whom Adrian calls ‘creep Lucas.’ It happens during a time when divorce is not as common as it is today. Ironically, the divorce has had a more profound effect on Adrian’s father than it had on the poor kid. George becomes negligent, and Adrian eventually seeks refuge on his paternal grandmother.
“I rang my grandma and she came around in taxi and took me to her house and put me to bed. I am there now. It is very clean and peaceful. I am wearing my dead grandad’s pyjamas. I have just had a bowl of barley and beef soup. It is my first proper nourishment for weeks. [...] I expect there will be a row when my mother comes home and finds that I have gone. But frankly, dear diary, I don’t give a damn.” – Thursday, March 12th (p. 54)
My favorite character in the book is, in fact, Grandma Mole. She is the embodiment of girl power, much in the likes of Queen Elizabeth I and Margaret Thatcher. She is the glue that holds the family together, and takes charge of situations that neither George nor Pauline can handle.
“My grandma found out about [Barry Kent's] menacing… She listened to it all then she put her hat on, thinned her lips then went out. She was gone one hour and seven minutes, she came in, took her coat off, fluffed her hair out, took £27.18 from the anti-mugger belt round her waist. She said, ‘He won’t bother you again, Adrian, but if he does let me know.'” – Thursday, May 21st (p. 101)
In spite of the familial woes, Adrian’s diary also brings out the softer side of him. For one, he is madly in love with a girl named Pandora who, much to Adrian’s luck, went out with his best friend Nigel first, then had a short-lived romance with another kid in school (whose name I had already forgotten) before becoming official with him (Adrian, not the other kid).
Also, Adrian considers himself an intellectual, thus placing himself above other kids his own age (sometimes even grownups!) and feeds his intellect by reading hardcore literature. Among his reads are Charles Dickens’ Hard Times, George Orwell’s Animal Farm, Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights, and Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment. On top of that, Adrian struggles to become a writer, as his works are constantly being rejected by the BBC. Here is a sample (and you be the judge):
“The hallowed mist rolls away leaving Scotland’s majestic peaks revealed in all their majesty. A shape in the translucent sky reveals itself to be an eagle, that majestic bird of prey. Talons clawing, it lands on a loch, rippling the quiet majesty of the turbulent waters. The eagle pauses only to dip its majestic beak into the aqua before spreading its majestic wings and flying away to its magisterial nest high in the barren, arid, grassless hills.” - Sunday, August 30th (p. 149)
Too much “majestics,” I must say. Nevertheless, I like that aspect of Adrian the most because it is something I can immediately relate to. Besides, I think it is mainly through writing in his diary that Adrian is able to take control of the devastating events in his life.
Adrian Mole reminds me very much of Max Fischer, the main character in Wes Anderson’s classic movie, Rushmore. Not only do they look alike – typical nerds – but also both of them are living dysfunctional adolescent lives, going through identity crisis, and setting themselves up for failure (that’s probably too harsh). I consider Wes Anderson a genius, but I wouldn’t be surprised if bits and pieces of Max Fischer’s character were influenced by Adrian Mole.
As I was trying to get to know Adrian Mole more through the web, I found the TV adaptation of the book. The Adrian Mole theme, Profoundly in Love with Pandora, was sung by Ian Dury.
Below is a short video of the TV adaptation of the book.
Frankly, Adrian Mole’s character wasn’t what I had expected. I thought he looked tougher than that. Then again, if you look at his life, he fits the role perfectly. (I find it fascinating how Adrian Mole is British and wears spectacles like – insert British accent here – Harry Potter.)
Sue Townsend’s brainchild must have created an uproar upon its publication because, not only did it have a TV adaptation, it also had both a play and a musical adaptation. (Maybe theatre companies in the Philippines will have its own version someday!)
Surprise! Surprise! The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13 3/4 is actually the first among an eight-book series. The Secret Diary and its sequel, The Growing Pains of Adrian Mole, largely focus on the life of an adolescent. The latest books are political satires of events such as the Gulf War and the Iraqi War. (Other Mole books include The True Confessions of Adrian Albert Mole, Adrian Mole: The Wilderness Years, Adrian Mole: The Cappuccino Years, Adrian Mole and the Weapons of Mass Destruction, The Lost Diaries of Adrian Mole, and Adrian Mole: The Prostrate Years.)
The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13 3/4 is a delightful read. You’ll finish the book before you even know it. Now that I’ve finished the first book, I am determined to hunt the rest of the Mole books. I have been to different thrift stores but did not remember finding any of them. Just my luck!
Book picture from http://s4.hubimg.com/u/1527635_f260.jpg
Adrian Mole picture from http://img.tesco.com/pi/Books/L/01/9780435123901.jpg
Max Fisher picture from http://img.listal.com/image/478578/500full.jpg
Sue Townsend picture from http://www.srcf.ucam.org/shirleysoc/authors/photos/townsend.jpg
Adrian Mole opening theme from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nftoK57qTO4&feature=related
Adrian Mole short TV excerpt from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0KOdvp1mwYM&feature=related
Novgorod Theatre Company’s play adaptation from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G7WJnwFQUzY&feature=related
Get It On, Exit Theatre Company’s musical adaptation from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yO0jU4om_s0&feature=related
For a comprehensive discussion on the Adrian Mole books visit http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adrian_Mole
For a short feature on Sue Townsend visit http://www.contemporarywriters.com/authors/?p=authC2D9C28A18dac23605uLr31DC862