Sue Townsend began her Mole writing in 1982 with the final book published in 2009. I’ve read all the Adrian Mole books in order of publication, and it seems obvious they were never meant to be read in this manner, as the story line discrepancies are infuriating. Reading a Townsend interview printed at the end of my last two books she said “once published, I never read my own work”. Believe me you can tell, because at times Sue talked about characters like she never knew their back story at all. Somehow I don’t think the Harry Potter generation from 1997 onwards would tolerate such a seemingly sloppy attitude toward the main characters story.
The first discrepancy I noticed was in characters ages. Adrian’s Secret Diary begins on New Year’s Day 1981 and on April 2nd he turned 14, making his birth year 1967. In the third book Adrian loses a year, seems to regain it again in later narratives, only to celebrate his 40th birthday in 2008! Yet an Adrian Mole CV printed at the back of the last book states he was born in 1967. The Mole boys’ age references are even worse. In “The Cappuccino Years” which spans from April 97 to May 98, William started nursery aged three in 97 (birthday July 1st) and Glenn celebrated becoming a teenager the following year on April 18th. So there are definitely 9 ¼ years between them, but in October 2002 at the start of “Weapons of Mass Destruction” the difference is eight years. Glenn is 17 (correct) and turns 18 the following April as a serving soldier in Kuwait. William is said to be 9 when really he was eight and this strand continues In “The Lost Diaries” where the narrative frankly gets totally lost, with William aged 7 and Glenn 13? William is simultaneously described as a seven year old being drilled for SAT exams, with prevailing references to nursery school participation, yet at five he would have been between these educational reference points. Glenn meanwhile celebrated becoming 14 in January 2000 when he should actually have turned 15 that April instead?
“The Lost Diaries” wasn’t written as a novel originally, but appeared in The Guardian newspaper as a series of weekly articles known as the Diary of a Provincial Man, between December 1999 and November 2001. This time period usefully filled some of the gap between the “Cappuccino” & “Weapons” narratives. However, it sticks out like a sore thumb with story plots that are full of contradiction, especially regarding Adrian and Pandora’s parents. Adrian’s mum Pauline falls in love with Pandora’s dad Ivan after the election of 1997 in” The Cappuccino Years”. This results in the even more unlikely get together of George Mole and Tania Braithwaite. Each new couple intend to marry. Sadly in “The Weapons of Mass Destruction” Ivan is said to have drowned on honeymoon, and the second anniversary of his death is mourned on Oct 2nd 2002. So it was with surprise I read the “Lost Diaries” to find Ivan married Pauline on 27th Nov 1999, returned hale and hearty from honeymoon, and worked from home for about a year before suffering a mental breakdown. With his wife Pauline’s knowledge, Ivan returned to Tania’s palatial and less chaotic home to recuperate. Tania’s husband George suffered a back injury putting up a pagoda in the garden and was hospitalised, only to succumb to numerous hospital borne infections as well, so is out of the way. Pauline suffers the indignity of jail time for hitting a policeman trying to remove her Beckham nativity scene, and on her release is said to be distraught to find that Ivan is back living with Tania! After fifteen months in the hospital George Mole is discharged on July 2nd 2001, goes on holiday with Pauline and remarries her on August 18th. Their son Adrian had wondered when they went on holiday if their respective partners knew about it. So there is no mention of divorce between Ivan/Pauline and Tania/George and Ivan is most definitely alive at this point. Another story thread that has been altered in the “Lost” book regards Grandma Sugden who is mentioned as having died over twenty years ago. This would have meant she wasn’t around by about 1980, yet throughout Adrian’s teenage years he writes about Grandma Sugden and family celebrating Christmas several times in the Mole household.
The “Cappuccino” book was published in 1999 and “Weapons” in 2004 long before the 2008 “Lost Diaries”, so the dialogue was established. The latter narrative had virtually no co-relation to the others at all, and it’s obvious it was written in a different way. The fact that September 11th 2001 has no distinct diary entry in the “Lost” tome, but is referred to later on speaks volumes. I suspect in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks in the USA, the Guardian’s Provincial articles were less likely to be published. However, the Sept 11th omission is cunningly dealt with by the suggestion that Adrian’s diary was confiscated by the security forces in late 2001. Could the daily diary entry have been removed?
Adrian’s half siblings Brett Slater and Rosie Mole are born in August and November of 1982. In” The Lost Diaries” Brett’s age of nineteen is actually correct, and Adrian enquires if his father has had any contact with Brett. Yet in “The Cappuccino Years” Adrian finds out that a young teenage Brett has met George several times at Tania’s home. In “The Wilderness Years” Adrian refers to his sister as Rosemary, stating he refuses to bastardise her name to Rosie, despite the fact she was actually given the name Rosie Germaine Mole. Mind you Townsend has form here, as Adrian’s middle initial A is supposed to be Albert after his paternal grandfather, but in “Growing Pains” it becomes Arnold and in “Weapons” it is Arthur. Adrian’s friend Nigel usually has the surname Hetherington but in the “Small Amphibians” text, he is referred to as Nigel Partridge.
With regard to Adrian’s son William, I got the feeling Townsend just wanted to forget the character completely. This was confirmed with an interview narrative from the author printed at the end of the final books. Sue said she regretted Adrian getting married, having William and ending up a single parent. It restricted Adrian as a character, so she packed William off to his mother Jo-Jo in Nigeria and literally forgot him. The narrative in the books from that moment read EXACTLY that way, William out of sight and totally out of mind, for both the author and consequently her main character Adrian. This left an unpleasant taste in my mouth in a similar way to Adrian’s two NEVER changing characteristics.
Throughout the entire Mole series of books Adrian displays pure unbridled jealousy toward anyone with academic success or writing prowess. He rages at Barry Kent becoming a successful writer, is condescending at a writing group member’s poetry success, seethes at hearing Kent’s mother (a toilet cleaner) has gained two degrees, and is baffled & infuriated when Pandora hires Mrs Kent and later Nigel as Parliamentary assistants, when it should be him in such a position. Adrian has difficulty in relationships where his partner has a degree/superior career track record, and almost chokes admitting his own mother wrote the Adrian Mole cookery book. For all the years of diligent writing, Adrian really isn’t that good a wordsmith but remains convinced of his own genius, whilst rubbishing everyone else’s efforts. These disagreeable attributes remain a constant throughout Adrian’s life which is possibly a good thing, when you consider the numerous other details that undergo change without warning or explanation.