"Adrian Mole and the Weapons of Mass Destruction" is the latest careening satire to emerge from Sue Townsend's wickedly literary rocket...

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“Adrian Mole and the Weapons of Mass Destruction”
by Sue Townsend
Soho Press, 327 pp., $24

“Adrian Mole and the Weapons of Mass Destruction” is the latest careening satire to emerge from Sue Townsend’s wickedly literary rocket launcher, combining love, politics and credit-card debacle into a not-to-be-missed novel.

It helps to already know the ridiculously priggish Adrian Mole from the other catastrophic novels he has appeared in — his doomed relationships, his offspring, the “Offally Good!” television show he hosted (don’t ask), his bright celebrity that has fallen by the wayside.

But you don’t really need to know all the details that created the current scenario. Instead, newcomers and old fans alike can find themselves alternately laughing out loud or horrifically aghast as the 30-something Mole digs himself deeper into dilemmas of his own making.

The title is explained within the first chapter. Mole has canceled a trip to Cyprus upon Tony Blair’s declaration that Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction could destroy Cyprus within 45 minutes. But Mole’s travel agency refuses to refund his deposit unless Mole can prove the weaponry exists. As he attempts to get his money back, Mole finds himself falling deeper and deeper into a fiscal hole.

Alas, the home front for Mole isn’t that peaceful, either. True to form, he gets involved in all the wrong ways with all the wrong women, impregnating one of the dullest, whiniest dollhouse decorators in the world (Marigold) while pining for her hedonistic older sister (Daisy).

Though one of Mole’s children remains safely (?) off in Nigeria, Mole’s older son is sent to the front lines of the Iraq war, where the British boots melt in the heat before the Americans’ do.

Mole finds himself literally at war in his new abode as well — first with his pocketbook, which couldn’t actually afford the flat or its furniture; then with his new talking fridge that chides him for keeping old vegetables; and finally with his unruly neighbors: killer swans and nesting rats.

“Adrian Mole and the Weapons of Mass Destruction” isn’t all madcap froth, and supporters of the Iraq war may seethe to realize how aptly Townsend nails society’s true weapons of mass destruction as political expediency and financial irresponsibility. Whatever your thoughts on the war, you may have trouble resisting some of the book’s touching moments: Mole’s book-club reading of the Quran, the arrival from the battlefront of a scared letter from Mole’s son, the parental angst Mole suffers about sending him to war.

As in Townsend’s other novels, Mole’s EveryOaf persona gives way a bit to the EveryMan, and readers will find themselves cheering once again for Britain’s oldest adolescent as he buffoons his way to victory.