Top critical review
5 people found this helpful
A return to form for Adrian Mole...
on 2 August 2006
This is a definite return to form for Sue Townsend after the disappointing Cappuccino Years of 1999. Like the magnificent Wilderness Years volume, published in 1993, this book gives us Adrian Mole as rather irritating, naïve character, yet one who is heading towards an escape from his self-obsessed, parochial life. Whilst much in the book fails to ring true (the characterisation of the Flowers family is all over the place, with them seemingly hippie liberals one minute and Victorian despots the next), the writer hits home in her description of Mole's continuing relationship with his eccentric parents and his teenage son Glenn. His initial political views come across as somewhat ludicrous, with his blind faith in Tony Blair seeming so misguided to the casual reader that his eventual political awakening in the book's final pages is of no surprise at all, but this is offset by the tragedy surrounding it. Townsend's greatest strength as a writer is still her ability to create genuinely interesting characters to which her readers will respond warmly. The passage of time means that several of the best characters from the earlier books, such as Adrian's terrifying grandmother and the ancient Bert Baxter, no longer feature, but these have been replaced by equally strong characters such as Mole's employer Mr Carlton-Hayes. The characters of Mole's mother and father continue to be as well-drawn as they are grotesque (though the idea of his mother taking yet another young lover is an old idea that predictably goes nowhere), and it is particularly satisfying that Pandora Braithwaite is once again marginalised to the role of a minor character. Pandora was central to the earlier books but was diminished in importance in the `coming of age' Wilderness Years. The Cappuccino Years, with its open political content, restored to her to a disproportionately large influence in Adrian's life. In this latest book she is back where she belongs, on the fringes of the story. Overall, this book has to rank as second only to The Wilderness Years in terms of emotional impact, and it leaves one waiting eagerly for the next instalment in the story. On a purely comic level the Adrian Mole books will always have a large readership, but they have another value altogether, and that is the way they record and examine the way in which the country, like the title character, has evolved over the past twenty years. In years to come, they might be viewed as being on a par with William Cooper's `Scenes from Life' books as an invaluable social document.