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Sue Townsend

Adrian Mole and the Weapons of Mass Destruction

Category: Fiction | Published: 2004 | Review Added: 20-12-2018

Rating: 4 - A top read

It's autumn 2002, the New Labour Government is threatening war on Iraq, and Adrian Mole has nervously cancelled a holiday in Cyprus after Tony Blair's announcement that Iraq could pound the island with weapons of mass destruction within forty-five minutes. Eternally naive, Mole writes to the Prime Minister asking for proof of the claim, required by the travel agency to redeem his deposit of £57.10.

£57.10, however, proves small beer next the huge expenses that Mole accumulates over the course of this excerpt from his diaries, running to summer 2003. Mole has taken out a large mortgage on a yuppie flat in Rat Wharf, a converted canalside factory in Leicester, which has left him penniless and dependent on high-interest loans to satisfy the demands of the modern lifestyle he craves. On top of bills for a talking fridge and a state-of-the-art home entertainment system come unforeseen further costs, including those incurred for marriage to a girlfriend he hasn't proposed to.

Other strands of the narrative include Mole's bitter battles with an aggressive swan called Gielgud, frustrations with his disputatious writing group, and the worrying deployment of his teenage son as a soldier to the Middle East. As ever, Mole's woes are the combined effects of his own foolishness and the bitter ironies of fate.

The book is just as funny as the teenage diaries that kicked off the Mole series in the early 1980s. Seven books in, the reader need not fear that Sue Townsend is running out of ideas. Her extraordinarily resourceful imagination works as feverishly as ever, using the passage of time to develop convincingly the lives of Mole and his erstwhile schoolmates, and satirising contemporary life at both the political and the social levels. The humour is by turns droll and farcical; this isn't a work of realism, but is pitched at the level of a television situation comedy. If an idea or a one-liner is funny, it goes in - sometimes at the expense of character and often at the expense of credibility, but within a framework of internal consistency and plot lines that are as clever as they are contrived.

There are belly-laughs on every page, but Townsend strikes a tone of understated poignancy. Despite their faults, we love Mole, his family, and his friends, as they fumble through the messes of their lives and help us see ours in perspective.

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