New Adrian Mole diary is dark, hopeless and hilarious

This weekend, I discovered to my absolute delight that Sue Townsend had published another volume in the Adrian Mole diaries, a series I have followed since I was a teenager. The new book, The Lost Diaries of Adrian Mole, 1999-2001, was published in hardcover in 2008, but I missed it until now -- it's just been released in paperback.

The Adrian Mole diaries start with The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 3/4 (published when I was about 13 3/4, explaining, in part why I've found these books so compelling over the years) and they chronicle the improbable adventures of Adrian Mole, a lower-middle-class would-be intellectual from the English lowlands. Adrian's life is plagued by parental insanity, poor romantic relationships, ill-advised pregnancies, angry pensioners whom Adrian inevitably ends up caring for, doctors frustrated by his hypochondria, and a streak of hilarious and painful self-sabotage as wide as Basil Fawlty's.

In The Lost Diaries, we get a bit of in-fill on the series, a documenting of the years leading up to the War on Terror, during which Adrian reaches a low point, living as a single father in a terrible council estate, his parents again divorced (then remarried, then divorced, then remarried), his two sons stuck in a miserable educational situation, and his finances and mood in the pits of despair.

But Adrian soldiers on, as he always does, blissfully unaware of the comedy in his tragedy, writing a terrible kids' story about pigs, another terrible murder comedy about builders; discovering globalism's seedy underbelly through the lens of a road-size fry-stand where he meets truckers bound for and from every part of the Eurasian landmass; contending with pernicious headlice, authoritarian schoolmasters, foot-and-mouth, and a petrol shortage, and all the while chronicling it all in Townsend's deadpan style.

I purely love these books, every word of every one of them. Townsend's gift is to make you choke with laughter and tears at once, to create a nebbishy antihero who is both terrible and lovable, and to torture him mercilessly for our benefit and edification. And I was fantastically happy to see at notice at the book's end that another volume is due in November, Adrian Mole, the Prostrate Years.

The Lost Diaries of Adrian Mole, 1999-2001