Book Club: Adrian Mole

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There are a lot of books that I have not really 'got' the first time I read them: Villette by Charlotte Bronte; Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier; anything by Jeanette Winterson. There are also books which have grabbed me in the first few pages and which I have subsequently loved forever: The Color Purple by Alice Walker; Smut by Alan Bennett; anything by Ian McEwan. However, there are not many books that have done both.

I have never misunderstood a book so much the first time I read it, and yet loved it so completely. I first picked up the Adrian Mole books as a young teenager and to say that I didn't get it was an understatement. As a precocious, anxious teenager I felt like Adrian Mole was a kindred spirit - and I so didn't get that you were supposed to laugh at him. The political references were completely lost on me, as was the social commentary. It's almost embarrassing how literally I took everything that Sue Townsend wrote. And yet, I loved them. I devoured the lot.

With each re-reading, my understanding grew. I started to get the fact that Adrian's poems were kind of the worst thing ever. That he's kind of an arrogant arse a lot of the time. Lately I've been working my way through the books at a rate of knots - they're easy to read and I think I got through four in one week. I think I finally get it. I finally understand the satire and the comedy. It's embarrassing how long that's taken me. But it makes me love these books even more. Sue Townsend was truly a phenomenal writer - somehow managing to provoke affection for characters that probably don't deserve it. I still want a happy ending for Adrian despite the fact that he is kind of a douche a lot of the time. She's a comic genius - I don't think there are any books that I so wish that I had written, that I was clever enough to come up with.

It's funny how books stick with us. How familiar these books are as I re-read them but yet how many surprises lie within their pages. How nostalgic and yet how surprising. I've still got a couple left to go but I sort of don't want them to end. I want Adrian to keep on going, and I am so sad that he can't anymore. I remember there was some closure at the end of the final book, but it wasn't quite the ending I was hoping for. Instead it was exactly like the rest of Sue Townsend's work - funny, gentle and real. I guess I can't ask for much more than that.

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