Now, I know this isn’t my usual fare, but every so often you have to have a bit of down time. This is my equivalent of watching soap operas. My Mum is an avid fan so had bought the book, and passed it on to me: as she has all the previous books in the series.

I did used to love Adrian Mole. I can remember discovering his ‘secret diary’ when I must have also been about 13 and 3/4 and loving it. The humour and the pathos mix always seemed just right and the incidents of his life and his reaction to them realistic if on the manic edge of realism. It also illuminated contemporary politics from the man on the street’s perspective, and showed the unintended results of politicians’ actions, without lecturing you. This was also true of its sequel, ‘The Growing Pains’, and to some extent the ‘True Confessions’, and they will always have a soft spot in my heart.

However,  once Adrian became a ‘proper’ adult I felt the series started to go downhill, and this latest offering is no exception. Whilst it is an easy read that will idle away a few hours it just tips over the edge from sharp humour into farce. The main theme of the book is an exploration Adrian’s prostate cancer diagnosis and treatment, and this is still done sensitively and with a bittersweet humour, as when Adrian is having radiotherapy and is told to lie absolutely still, “I did as I was told, terrified that the beam would miss my prostate and hit my penis”. Or when he is told he will need a tatoo to direct the radiotherapy beam and he asks for “something discreet – a small bird perhaps or a flower”.

However, the rest of the book is just a bit overdone and so misses the mark. The diary is set during the credit crunch and Sue Townsend’s political views and messages seemed to be spelled out, rather than be explored through her characters’ reactions to events as previously. In addition, whilst the series has always verged on the edge of being unbelievable this time it descended into absurdity. We have gay blind men only realising their guide dog is dead after they become annoyed at it for not answering the door, Adrian’s Mum writing a fictional misery autobiography called ‘A Girl Called Shit’, and Adrian’s wife having an affair with the local lord of the manor. It was all a bit much for me I’m afraid.

Something to pass the time, but I think Sue Townsend has lost her touch.