Sue Townsend: 1946-2014
11th Apr 2014
Townsend was best known for her Adrian Mole series, the “secret” diaries of a luckless, would-be intellectual from the midlands. The first – The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 and 3/4 – was published in 1989, and the most recent installment, to which many were anticipating a sequel to, appeared in 2009.
Joyously witty, quietly political and always brilliant, they were a worldwide success, and saw Adrian grow from worrying about monochromatic rags, being scared of Margaret Thatcher and nursing an obsessive crush on Pandora Braithwaite to worrying about mortgage repayments and being scared of the war in Iraq.
The early Mole works made her the best selling author of the eighties, but she was also known for her other works, notably The Queen and I, which saw the Royal family forcibly removed to a council sink estate, and Queen Camilla, its sequel.
Her books were a little chunk of a lot of our childhoodsTownsend came late to literary success. A secret writer since her teens, in her thirties she was persuaded by her second husband Colin to join a creative writing group in Leicester. She set most of her work in the city, which was her birthplace, and on estates similar to the Saffron Lane estate, her home during the writing of her first novel.
A staunch and lifelong socialist, she never shied away from making her political opinions clear, ruthlessly criticising Margaret Thatcher and Conservative policy, but also taking a steady aim at New Labour, who she brilliantly described as like a cappuccino: “A little bit of coffee and a load of bloody froth”.
Only hours after her death, her name was trending worldwide on Twitter as readers expressed their grief. Owen Jones said: “Her books were a little chunk of a lot of our childhoods”, whilst Caitlin Moran called her “one of the funniest women who ever lived.”
Her most famous creation, meanwhile, tweeted: “I owe her my life and literary career. Sue Townsend, I remain your humble and obedient servant and friend. Adrian Albert Mole x”.