Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The growing pains of Adrian Mole

If I had known beforehand that last night would be so windy, so stormy, I would have imagined myself reading something equally as moody as the weather -- a gothic novel such as Walpole's The Castle of Otranto or, as I have intended for years, Radcliffe's The Mysteries of Udolfo.

But, no. There I was reading The Lost Diaries of Adrian Mole: 1999-2001 -- and I did not want to read it.  The day before,  I had intentionally abandoned my rule of alloting only twenty-five pages to a book for which I have developed a distaste.

Sometimes, I just cannot resist the pull of the past and the very name, Adrian Mole, takes me back to reading the The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 3/4, the first book in the series, in 1988 or so.

A misguided teen in the middle of England, Adrian has the sense that he should have a better life but lacks the adult tools with which to build one for himself at the time.  He believes that he knows what people in higher socio-economic classes do -- they read classic literature, they live in big houses with manicured lawns and they aspire to lofty professions -- but he does his homework by candlelight when the electricity is turned off in his council flat and his writing lacks the weight of actual experience.  We always feel compassion for him and for his family. It is an enjoyable read with credible characters and waves of humour so frequent that respite is necessary.  I am similarly disposed to the sequel, The Growing Pains of Adrian Mole.

But in the books that follow, from The Wilderness Years on, Adrian is a man and the personality traits that we find endearing while he is a teenager are neither excusable nor acceptable in his adulthood.  So, while our compassion for Adrian's plight -- he cannot see the error of his ways, he cannot escape poverty, he cannot achieve his career goals -- remains, it is tempered by disdain for his personality.

There are other, more minor problems. Some of Adrian's seemingly delusional beliefs are not, well, believable.  I am also uncomfortable with his awareness of Sue Townsend.  When an author appears in a novel, I am upset by the intersection of the real and the fictional.  It wounds my sense of justice somehow as if I feel entitled to escape reality for a while.

So, I did not enjoy the book but, strangely, the questions remain:  Will I read Adrian Mole The Prostrate Years and complete (hopefully) a series because I just might enjoy the book, or because I have a vague sense of loyalty? Or will I simply say that enough is enough and revert to my twenty-five pages rule?

***

The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13¾ (1982)

The Growing Pains of Adrian Mole (1984)

The True Confessions of Adrian Albert Mole (1989)

Adrian Mole From Minor to Major (1991) - omnibus including Adrian Mole and the Small Amphibians.

Adrian Mole: The Wilderness Years (1993)

Adrian Mole: The Cappuccino Years (1999)

Adrian Mole and the Weapons of Mass Destruction (2004)

The Lost Diaries of Adrian Mole, 1999-2001 (2008)

Adrian Mole: The Prostrate Years (2009)

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