This fifth installment of Adrian Mole's diary (The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 3/4; Adrian Mole: The Cappuccino Years, etc.) breaks new ground with its concern for current affairs and its sympathetic treatment of not-always-exemplary characters. Adrian, as usual, is struggling with various relationships and with constant financial problems, always trying to do the right thing, but usually giving in to his baser urges, in love and in spending. He becomes accidentally engaged to dollhouse-building homebody Marigold while spending flirtatious evenings with childhood love Pandora; fires off missives to the likes of Tony Blair and Tim Henman; and works, genuinely, to be a good father, friend and ex-husband to a cast of often bizarre but always human characters. Townsend, author of numerous non-Adrian novels, plays and nonfiction, makes Adrian's adult disorientation palpable as he tries to figure out how he went from hosting a popular television show to working in a failing second-hand bookshop, and copes with the shock of seeing childhood bullies make good and childhood dreams go awry. Arguments about the war figure prominently: one of Adrian's sons is sent to Iraq; his best friend, Robert, is there, too. Adrian's reactions to the war are complex, funny and wrenching. By the time the diary breaks off (on Sunday, July 22, 2004), things are looking up for Adrian and a bridesmaid-and he is considering (to her consternation) writing an autobiography. (Dec.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
In Townsend's latest installment of the Adrian Mole series, the feckless pseudointellectual has entered the early stages of middle age, but his judgment has hardly improved. Not only is he engaged to a misanthropic woman who designs doll houses, but he has also accumulated more debt than he could pay off in one lifetime; there's also a sadistic swan that terrorizes him whenever he ventures outside of his fashionable new condominium. As if this weren't enough, Adrian's painfully unsophisticated but good-hearted 17-year-old son, Glenn, has been deployed to Iraq. Adrian's angst over the situation increases with each piece of correspondence with his son, even though the elder man firmly supports Tony Blair's assertion that Saddam Hussein does indeed possess weapons of mass destruction. Townsend's acerbic wit has become even sharper; her brand of humor is more hilarious than nearly everything on television or in the movies today. While the barrage of British cultural references may distract many American readers, and the novel's ending feels a bit too dashed off and tidy, Townsend continues to entertain with her intelligent humor. Recommended for most fiction collections.-Kevin Greczek, Ewing, NJ Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Loveable loser Adrian Mole turns 35 in the latest installment in the British series. Townsend began tracking Adrian's wholly mediocre life in The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 133/4 (1982). Set between 2002 and 2004, this, like the others, takes the form of diary entries. Here a slightly more responsible Adrian emerges. Despite a few setbacks-his cooking show, Offally Good!, has been cancelled, and youngest son William has gone to live with his mum in Nigeria-he's finally moved out of his parents' house. Adrian has bought a posh loft at Rat Wharf and some dangerously white furniture to go with it. He is doing well as an assistant to an antiquarian bookseller and may even have found a remedy for the unrequited love of his life, Pandora Braithwaite, in the form of Miss Marigold Flowers. But happy times have short tenancy-in fact, just a few days. Adrian's initial attraction to Marigold's fragility disappears when he's nearly bored to death during a long tour of her doll houses. But no matter: Marigold tells everyone they're engaged and Adrian seems helpless to contradict her. Likewise, life at Rat Wharf turns out to be less than ideal when the picturesque canal swans begin menacing Adrian, and his upstairs neighbor complains at the noise made when Adrian boils water. Finally, Adrian's credit-card debt is mounting, thanks in part to his "resourcefulness" in taking cash advances on newly offered cards to pay the minimum on others. Things get worse: Marigold says she is pregnant and sets a wedding date, Adrian begins a torrid affair with her sister Daisy and his son Glenn is stationed in Iraq. With her usual dark wit, Townsend skewers the Blair government's search for WMDs, the pervasivehell of modern debt and the everyman's inability to master love. Laugh-out-loud one-liners ensure that even the uninitiated will enjoy Adrian Mole's journey through Townsend's cruel, comic world.