Book Reviews

Review Published in HINDUSTAN TIMES

Devoid of Life and laughter


By Sue Townsend

One is naturally curious about a person who can whip up a telling, pungent hilarious and awfully true dairy of a fifteen-year old. The Sunday Times fortunately introduced Sue Townsend to its readers. With her first book – The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Townsend jumped the gap between the haves and the have nots in British society. With $ 5,00,000 adding weight to her bank account and a sting to her prose she is now celebrating bringing under the spotlights a world of dole-livers, torn sofas and desperately engineered meals. She hates radio and TV interviewers because they “smell of booze and have eyes with panic- stricken pupils. To round it off she also hates town - planners, upper class accents and Alsatian dog owners.

It seems that Adrian Mole has rubbed off on her. As for young Mole, in his own wordsl:
“I am a fifteen-year-old schoolboy. My grandma tells me that I am attractive and many people have commented on how mature I am for my years. I am the only child of a bad marriage (apart from the dog).”

Through the daily entries in Adrian Mole’s diary the reader lives through his growing pains. We watch him questioning the sanity of his parents, fall in love and fumble with sex. And all the while he is counting the adolescent spots on his face in close mirror inspections and mailing in his poetic attempts to an understanding but not very helpful BBC. And if he is not worrying about his dogs courting efforts there is always the Falkland’s campaign map to be updated.

Some random leafs from his diary:

Monday, April 12th
Easter Monday
"My mother and father are always arguing about their bedroom. My father’s side of the room is dead neat, but my mother’s side is disgusting: overflowing ashtrays, old yellow Observers, books, magazines and puddles of nylon knickers on the floor. Her bedside shelves are full of the yukky junk she buys from second-hand shops, one-armed statues, broken vases and stinking old books etc. I pity my father having to share a room with her. All he’s got on his shelves are his AA book and a photograph of my mother in a wedding dress.
She’s the only bride I’ve seen who’s got cigarette smoke coming out of her nostrils.
I just can’t understand why my father married her”

Sunday June 27th
Third After Trinity
“I can’t go on with this charade of churchgoing every Sunday. I will have to tell Grandma that I have become an agnostic atheist. If there is a God then He/She must know that I am a hypocrite. If there isn’t God then of course, it doesn’t matter.”

Thursday July 1st
Dominion Day (Canada)
“Nigel has arranged for me to have a blind date with Sharon Botts. I am meeting her at the roller-skating rink on Saturday. I am dead nervous. I don’t know how to roller-skate—let alone make love.” Like all 15 years olds Adrian Mole makes new year resolutions (stop thinking erotic thoughts during school hours; oil bike once a week), he joins a boys gang and once again writes the first page of his novel. He then grows a beard and decides to run away from home. His list of vital equipment to be taken with him includes the dog, knife and fork, Penguin Medical Dictionary and Robinson Crusoe . . . . . .but of course the suitcase lid will not shut. Finally on the road he begins to wonder when his folks will set off the alarm to bring him back. And in a desperate act of self pity he buys himself a birthday card writes:
“To our darling first-born child on his sixteenth birthday.
With all the love it is possible to give,
From your admiring and loving parents.
PS. Come home son. Without you the house is devoid of life and laughter.

Adrian comes back to the troubled home, a worrying Grandma, Pandora’s love and his literary efforts. The BBC advises him that he, unlike Keats and Shelly, should not die young as it would be a “ shocking waste.”