Adrian Mole: the Cappuccino Years, by Sue Townsend (Penguin, £6.99 in UK)


A grown-up Mole would once have been unthinkable; but here he is, thirty-something, still unfulfilled in the life partner department and still sprouting the occasional unsightly spot. In this volume Townsend fixes the trendy young things of New Labour (of whom Pandora, Adrian's beloved, is now a paid-up member as MP for Ashby-de-la-Zouch) with her baleful stare, as well as scoring direct hits on the culturati - `Barry Kent's fifth novel, Blind, has been nominated for the 1997 Bookworm Prize . . . " - the PC "Nigel! What are you doing driving a van? I thought you were gay . . . " - and, as our hero tries in vain to gain telephone access to his Instant Access High Interest Bank Account, only to have all his codes and accounts declared null and void, the information revolution. Townsend's attempts to nobble rival "diarist" Helen Fielding by incorporating Bridget Jones into the story are a trifle naff; she still seems most comfortable with small/bold boys, and when Mole acquires not one but two of the latter, complete with tantrums and trainers "the size and shape of small bulldozers", she hits top form. As pleasantly astringent as a blast of tea tree oil in the shower.