This second book is just as good as the first, but slightly different. We pick up right where the story left off with Adrian Mole still pining for Pandora, his hip, cool, too hot for him Leftist girlfriend, and living at home with his parents. His mom, it turns out, has become pregnant, and his father’s ex girlfriend, whom Adrian calls “Stick Insect” is also pregnant. Adrian wonders aloud, who would impregnate her. He also notices that when he tells Pandora and her family about his mother’s upcoming birth that her father hurriedly excuses himself from the table.
Adrian begins the novel off with the upcoming Falklands War, and reminds us reading 20 years on that nationalistic fervor in England in the 80s had a different flavor (brown gravy?) than nationalistic fervor in the US now or then, but they are absolutely in the same vein as Adrian’s rival Barry is sent home for wearing a Union Jack to school.
This book shows us Adrian growing a little away from oblivious adolescent to obnoxious teen. In it Adrian briefly joins a street gang, marriage and love is discussed, and we can begin to see the various tragedies of Adrian’s life in the future taking shape — the final break up of his family, the loss of those her cares about as they grow older, and worst of all, the likelihood of a perfectly respectable, but mediocre middle class life. Coming from poverty, and being smart enough to be a precocious reader and thinker, Adrian has not realized yet that greatness is rare in the world, even if he’s likely to rise above his background (socially mobile).
True Confessions is a weirder book and I didn’t know going in what it was, but it’s mostly great as well.
Instead of a yearly diary, and apparently this has to do with Townsend having health issues and perhaps thinking the series closed, we mostly have updates via letters to friends and acquaintances, with a few holiday journal entries in here. We have Adrian discussing growing out of Christmas, thinking about his parent worriedly shopping around for gifts for him and using their credit cards (which they shouldn’t be using for this) instead of ready cash, and this bums him out. He also is starting to be maudlin in other ways. There’s a great exchange in which his American friend Hamish asks him to explain all the Britishisms Adrian’s been hurling at him, and has even apparently sent his letter postage due. Adrian also sends him one of the crass girly magazines he discusses.
It turns out that the Adrian Mole parts were only a novella, and this already short short book is padded out (in a good way) with a second diary short story, and even better, nonfiction essays by Townsend about being a writer and traveling. The very best of which involves her, Paul Bailey, Alan Bennett, and Timothy Mo going to the Soviet Union for a writer’s conference and meeting with very sour Soviet writers and having a great time, and accomplishing nothing.