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


  1. This is great news! Thanks, Cory! I first read Adrian Mole when I was living in London back in the 80s, and it was just a really fun set of books. I even saw shades of Evelyn Waugh in the way Townsend showed how unknowlingly clueless Adrian was. Off to Amazon/Borders/local to grab a copy (if it’s in available in the US)…

  2. Sue Townsend is a national treasure. Irreplaceable.

    I hope you have read “The Queen and I” and “The True Confessions of Margaret Hilda Roberts” where she gives the Mole Treatment to the Queen and to Mrs Thatcher.

    but…you meant “Road side fry stand” (not “Road size fry stand”) didn’t you?

  3. As I understand it, this is based on the ‘Secret Diary of a Provincial Man’ column from the Guardian (still readable online).

    I am a couple of years younger than Adrian Mole, and hated the first two books- I found the health education/puberty messages extremely clumsy, and was very suspicious that my teachers were so keen for us all to read them.

    I really enjoyed ‘The Wilderness Years’, though…

  4. I dunno about there being a health education subtext in the first books, I read a boy who was painfully insecure but bubbling with curiosity at his own bodies new found abilities…. that and an old copy of Big n Bouncy.

    Townsend, is a great writer and a voracious reader, so it was very saddening to read awhile ago that she has been effectively blinded by diabetes.

    The copy of the 1st Mole diaries, had a pic of her in the back. Man I used to have such a crush on her.
    That smart and mighty fine looking too.

  5. Gosh, I seriously thought I was the only one who had read them! My English teacher recommended those to us when I was about… 13 and 3/4. I literally learned English on those books.
    I loved Adrian Mole, can’t wait to read the latest installment!

  6. Curse you Cory, I thought I had closure when I finished Weapons Of Mass Destruction. I always got too personally involved in Adrian’s saga. My dehabilitating self-conciousness comes solely from Mole’s lack of the same. My enduring teenage neuroses were given form and definition by reflecting against his own insecurities.
    So when WOMD finished with a happy and believable ending of a man come to terms with himself and the world, a little piece of my broken psyche was put to rest.
    Like I say, I had closure before you posted this, you callous bastard.

  7. I found an old hard back copy in my cupboard the other day (from 1984) and showed it to my 10 1/4 year old daughter and she wont put it down!! Found a junk shop today and managed to get her ”
    Adrian moles Minor to Major” with 4 stories in it!!
    Never spent a pound so well in my life!! Strange after all these years you dont forget Pandora!!
    So, just goes to show that you never forget a good book (mind you was difficult trying to explain “Big n bouncy!!”).

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