I mentioned in a post recently that I wanted to re-read the Adrian Mole books (again) by Sue Townsend at some point as they must surely be amongst the funniest books ever written. I then realised that I hadn’t actually read the latest book in the series ‘Adrian Mole: The Prostrate Years’. Set in 2007-2008 as the credit crunch looms over Britain, Adrian is approaching his 40th birthday and has settled down with his second wife, Daisy, and their daughter, Gracie. However, all is not well in Adrian’s life as both his health and his marriage are in a very fragile state.
Although the first two books in the series are the most well-known (‘The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 3/4’ and ‘The Growing Pains of Adrian Mole’), Townsend’s comic creation is as funny as it ever was. As I haven’t read the latest instalments of the Mole diaries for quite some time, I thought I would find it more difficult to follow but I needn’t have worried. Given that Adrian was somewhat prematurely middle-aged as a teenager, he hasn’t really changed very much as a character. He is still obsessive, naive, contradictory and oblivious to what is really going on around him, often revealing more to the reader in what he says than he actually means to. Although Adrian is best known for his teenage diaries set in the 1980s, ‘The Prostrate Years’ is very much a twenty-first century edition of the Mole family saga which includes their appearance on The Jeremy Kyle Show to finally confirm who Rosie’s biological father really is. Instead of writing letters to the BBC, Adrian is now trying to directly contact Gordon Brown about his tax affairs. Predictably, his poetry and plays are still awful. Some things never change.
Adrian is also famous for being a hypochondriac but this time, he has good reason to be worried when he is diagnosed with prostate cancer (the title of the book is a reference to the common mispronunciation of the word). Townsend, who has battled a number of health problems herself in recent years, deals with the subject of Adrian’s illness brilliantly being neither overly sentimental nor too depressing about it as there is still plenty of room for some very British humour in the book. The characters are comfortingly familiar for those who have read the earlier books – Adrian’s mother, Pauline, has always been my favourite and she is as mad as ever in ‘The Prostrate Years’.
The next instalment of Adrian’s diaries will cover his life in ‘austerity Britain’ and is due to be published next year. Given that Adrian has invested his money in Icelandic banks, Townsend has already set him up for further troubles ahead. Will Adrian ever have a happy ending?