I first read (devoured) this book when I was just 14, on Christmas day. It was given as a present to my Mum, and somehow I got hold of it and read the entire thing that very day. Being surrounded by an abundance of relatives, food, presents, games, the Queen’s speech, etc, somehow did nothing to tear me away from one of the best books I’d ever read. (And it is still one of my few very favourite books of all time.) I laughed, I cried, I cried with laughter, I giggled, chuckled and snorted… in short – I loved it.
Why? Because he held a truth-telling microscope to my world: my uber-charismatic church. Like a Christian Caulfield, he exposed the phoney-ness. But unlike Caulfield, he did it in an amusing and readable manner. His sheer irreverence was deliciously shocking to me at the time, yet oddly comforting; I wasn’t alone in my scepticism. It’s not God he mocks though – not once. No – it’s the church and the people in it, along with our idiosyncrasies, hypocritical tendencies, and all-round batty behaviour.
Recently I read it again, from start to finish, in one day. It’s not that I haven’t read it a few times between those teenage years and now, but I wondered if reading it while being his actual age would alter the experience in any way…
DOUBT: Adrian has moments of doubting himself, doubting others and doubting God. Aged 14, I thought I had it all sussed. In fact I knew I did. I rarely suffered from paranoia (now a constant companion, as it is for Adrian) and I never doubted God (because that would be a sin). Nowadays I wouldn’t recognise myself if I wasn’t frequently churning over conversations in my mind, worrying about what people think of me. And it turns out it’s not a sin to doubt God at all – my 20th year was a bit ‘iffy’ in this respect, but it all worked out in the end, for the better.
DEATH: At 14, thoughts of death were not high on my agenda, as they are on Adrian’s. Now, they sneak up from time to time. A bit like grey hairs.
THEOLOGY: Adrian sums it up with ‘God is nice and he likes me’. When I was younger I was too quick to judge other Christians, declaring that what they were doing was wrong or, at best, ‘quite dodgy’. Now, I can see that we all mess up, at least 34.6 times per day, even me. Especially me. I now feel that if we can only cling on to the fact that God is nuts about us, we’re far more likely to live our lives as he wants us to.
The image below is my all-time favourite snippet from the diary. I’ve never been able to hear anyone talk about placing a ‘fleece’ in the same way since reading this, and never will. Which is a good thing.
It’s no secret that I used the diary as inspiration for my novel: Dear Bob (and the sequel: Love Jude). Perhaps with a dash of Adrian Mole (coming of age) and a sprinkling of Bridget Jones (singleton) slipped in with it!
Yes, I remain a true fan, and no doubt will be until I’m 99 and 3/4, and rely heavily on the audiobook version.