The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13¾ by Sue Townsend

adrianmole13I was around 13¾ years of age when I first read this novel, so I only had some vague recollections about it. But I definitely remembered that I liked it, so I re-read it now, and I still like it a lot, for many reasons.

First of all, I like it because this novel is really laugh-out-loud funny. Adrian Mole, a moderately loser teenager – whose life is a never-ending fight against his pimples, his careless parents, the unmanageable family dog, the school bully, and, in general, the whole English reality of the 1980s – writes about his trials and tribulations (some of which can by no means be dismissed as the usual stupid teenage whining) with a low-key, casually self-deprecating, ironic humor which I find irresistible – but of course I’m a great fan of this kind of deadpan, disrespectful humor in general.

Besides the humor, I like the fact that this is a very „English” novel. I assume it’s clear from the posts on this blog that I’m interested in every single era and facet of English life and literature (e.g. rural England; urban England; England as seen by a loser teenage boy; etc.), and the way Townsend’s slightly naive/childish protagonist depicts the England of the early 80s (both directly and indirectly) and the way he interprets some of the key events of the era is very interesting (and again: funny as hell). Just to give you an example, my favorite episode dealing with English reality is the one about the approaching wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana. The whole country is greatly anticipating the royal wedding, but Adrian’s father can only be bothered so far as to hang a Charles-and-Diana dish-towel on his front door – I guess this gesture speaks for itself and doesn’t really need to be commented upon.

By the way, re-reading this novel again made me think about the difference between proper teenage-novels and young adult novels. The distinction between these two became something of a hobby-horse of mine in recent years, but I haven’t yet been able to come up with an all-encompassing definition. For me the main difference is that I absolutely love proper teenage-novels, and I find them „true” because they don’t try to simplify what it’s like to be a teenager, while young adult novels ring false to me and make me mad, because they tend to simplify and oversimplify everything. Anyway, this novel is, fortunately, a proper teenage-novel, and I’m really glad that I read novels like this when I was a teenager, and not young adult stuff.

But I guess I enjoyed and appreciated this novel more now than when I first read it as a teenager. This is mainly due to the fact that besides its depiction of England and English society which probably couldn’t have meant a lot to me when I was fourteen, it’s also full of nice, slightly idiotic and very funny literary references which I’m able to appreciate now. On the one hand, Adrian Mole is a voracious reader, and I’m always much interested in the reading lists of fictitious characters. On the other hand, there are half-hidden literary references as well, definitely directed at the reader – e.g. there’s a character called Grace Pool who’s serving her sentence in prison for arson. I know that details like this meant nothing to me at the age of almost-fourteen, but luckily, 15 years passed since then, I read a couple of other books in the meantime, and nowadays I’m always delighted to come across any kind of intertextuality anywhere.


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