30 years of adrian mole

2012 marks the 30th anniversary of the first Adrian Mole book. Sue Townsend talks teenagers—and her new book The Woman Who Went to Bed for a Year

It has been 30 years since Adrian Mole, the socially unaware "misunderstood intellectual" wrote his first entry in The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged13 ¾ by Sue Townsend.

Teenager Adrian Mole began his diary on 1st January 1982, amid British soldiers fighting far away, a Conservative government grappling with mass unemployment and the celebration of a Royal Wedding. It seems not much has changed in 30 years.

However Townsend doesn't think Mole would have adapted well to teenage life in 2012. “He would be exactly the same but he wouldn’t be using Twitter to memorialise his life," she says. "He would keep a secret diary. Mole’s privacy is still intact. He would not use social networking."

To celebrate the date, publisher Penguin has released 30th anniversary editions of all eight Adrian Mole diaries. The new edition of the very first diary includes a foreword by comedian David Walliams, and more material from Townsend such as "The History of Mole" and Adrian’s literary CV.

Townsend says she was not tempted to write any more diary entries for Mole aged 13¾ , admitting that adolescent boys are now a “total mystery” to her. However, her favourite entry of the eight Mole books is the last line of the first diary, written after Mole had tried glue sniffing and accidentally stuck a model aeroplane to his nose: “I rang Pandora, she is coming round after her viola lesson. Love is the only thing that keeps me sane…”

New Horizons

Townsend will also be releasing a new book in March called The Woman Who Went to Bed for a Year. It follows wife and mother Eva, who one day has had enough of her kids’ carelessness, her husband’s thoughtlessness and of the world’s general indifference, and decides to climb into bed and stay there.

Eva is partly a result of Townsend’s own wishful thinking - at 23 she had three children under five and used to fantasise about being sent to prison so that she could read undisturbed on her bunkbed. But the novel is also a gesture to other modern mothers who try to “have to all”.

“The women I know who have tried to work, be a good mother and wife, keep the house reasonably clean and tidy, enjoy some kind of social life, and keep themselves coiffed, manicured, pedicured, toned, tanned and fashionably dressed are exhausted, and longing to stay in bed for a year,” she says.  

Writing as a career gives Townsend plenty of opportunity to lie in bed all day with a pen and notebook, but the prolific author admits it rarely happens: “Unfortunately I cannot allow myself to loll about in bed for longer than about six hours, as I am still brainwashed by the Calvinist work ethic.” Fortunately for us.

The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 3/4: 30th Anniversary Edition by Sue Townsend is published today by Michael Joseph.

The Woman Who Went To Bed For a Year is published by Michael Joseph on 1st March.