Adrian Mole is back. And he's still a mess.

Some things just don't change - at thirty, Adrian Mole is still the whining, unfulfilled loser we first encountered at age 13 ¾. He's still writing to the BBC, trying to get them to produce serial killer comedies and soap operas based on the Royal Family...and he still gets turned down every time. He's still madly in love with Pandora, now a high-profile politician in Blair's New Britannia...and she still walks all over him in her high-heeled stilettos. His family is as dysfunctional as ever...and his parents still drive him up the wall.

In the intervening years, Adrian has also acquired some family obligations of his own - his marriage to a beautiful Nigerian girl in tatters, he's now responsible for the welfare of his son William. He's also acquired some measure of fame as the head chef at Hoi Polloi, a SoHo restaurant which specializes in such delicacies as Heinz ketchup, gray lamb chops, boiled cabbage and Yorkshire pudding.

Hoi Polloi's owner is the irascible Peter Savage, second son of the Earl of Boswell, who delights in courting publicity with his erratic behaviour. And when Hoi Polloi shuts down, Adrian needs to come up with a new career alternative - celebrity chef on a television show called "Offally Good", or celebrity author of a book on offal recipes. And as if all this were not enough, Adrian's mother is having an affair with Pandora's father, Adrian's father is spending most of his time in bed, and Adrian's ex-girlfriend wants him to take a paternity test to find out if he is the father of her child...

Crackling with sly humour and digs at everything from political spin doctoring and Viagra to Burt Reynold's toupee and the Royal Family, "The Cappuccino Years" is Sue Townsend at her finest. As Mole stumbles and bumbles his way from one catastrophe to the next, his escapades - and his frequently erroneous opinions on them - make for hilarious reading, and not a few moments of outright mirth. A wonderful novel, and one manages to be funny while simultaneously addressing social and political issues with warmth and intelligence, "The Cappuccino Years" is a must-have addition to any bookshelf!

This article was first published on24 Jan 2001.