Adrian Mole: The Prostrate Years -- Sue Townsend's comic novels of recent history turn dark and sweet

I've written before here about the impact that Sue Townsend's comic Adrian Mole novels have had on my life since I was a young teenager, so it'll come as no surprise to learn that I was completely delighted by the latest volume, Adrian Mole: the Prostrate Years, which is sweeter, darker, more sentimental and more grim than the earlier installments.

For the uninitiated, the Adrian Mole books chronicle the life of a young man born near Leicester, whose dysfunctional family, intellectual impulses, gormless bumbling and terrible poetry make for a meaty, multi-volume series that serves as a wicked history of Britain and the world since the 1980s.

In the latest volume, Adrian is nearly 40, and is increasingly estranged from his (latest) wife, the mysterious and sexy Daisy, who seduced Adrian in Weapons of Mass Destruction. Their five year old is a High-School Musical-crazed monster, their finances are in tatters, and they're living with Adrian's elderly parents in their converted pigsty. Adrian's mother is writing a fictionalized agony memoir called A Girl Called Shit, and the lovely bookstore Adrian works at is going bust. And there's something wrong with Adrian's prostate, a problem compounded by all the friends and acquaintances who insist on calling it a "prostrate."

And yet, there's plenty that's sweet here. Adrian is figuring out fatherhood. His childhood flame, Pandora Braithwaite (now an MP) is back in his life. His half-brother Brett is back, his career as a hedge-fund manager in ruins. His son, Glenn, on deployment in Afghanistan, is shaping up to be a critically minded sharp young man. And Bernard, the alcoholic librophile who's helping out at the store, turns out to have quite a good approach to life that Adrian stands to learn much from.

Reading these books every year or two is a magic experience. Townsend recounts and recasts recent history in a way that makes you realize just how funny and tragic it all is. Townsend's vision has recently failed her, but she continues to write these books at an amazing clip. It's a real inspiration, as well as superb entertainment.

Adrian Mole: the Prostrate Years

Entire Adrian Mole series