The secret Diary of Adrian Mole aged 13 and 3/4 was recently voted Britain’s funniest book, but I’ve enjoyed the subsequent diaries just as much, and, in Adrian, Sue Townsend has cultivated the perfect everyman through whom she can deliver withering satire on every social issue and lifestyle trend in modern Britain.
From the smoking ban to laminate flooring, the workings of the NHS and the MPs expenses scandal, wittingly or not, Adrian chronicles the farcical elements of modern life to exquisite comic effect.
As our anti-hero turns 40, this latest offering is melancholy in tone, as he faces some serious adversity. The book’s title acknowledges the common misspelling of the cancer Adrian is diagnosed with.
But when the going gets tough, the comic characters come out in force. Adrian’s melodramatic mother, who is currently working on her misery memoir, A Girl Called Sh*t, drags her husband George and daughter Rosie onto the Jeremy Kyle Show to determine whether or not Rosie in fact the love child of Mr Lucas, with whom Pauline had an affair back in the ‘80s.
Adrian’s beloved Pandora, now one of Gordon Brown’s junior ministers, also makes regular appearances, as does his grown up soldier son Glenn.
When Glenn phones to commiserate about Adrian’s second wife having an affair, he offers to give the other party some “big beats”. Adrian replies that “Violence never solved anything” and Glenn answers: “Tell me about it. I’m in fucking Afghanistan”.
Amid the backdrop of the impending financial meltdown, the most appealing characters take solace and pleasure from books and nature, and despite the down-beat drama of most of the novel, it ends on a note of optimism.
• Sue Townsend's latest book, The Woman Who Went To Bed For A Year, is published on March 1, and I heard her interviewed a few weeks ago saying she’d started writing a new Adrian Mole diary. Can’t wait.
What’s your funniest book?