Sue Townsend, British comic author and creator of Adrian Mole, dies at 68


Sue Townsend (Ben Mcmillan / Penguin Group / Handout/EPA)
April 13

Sue Townsend, the British comic author who created angst-ridden teenage diarist Adrian Mole and sent Queen Elizabeth II into exile on a public housing estate, died April 10 at her home in Leicester, England. She was 68.

Her publisher, Penguin Books, said the cause was a stroke.

Ms. Townsend left school at 15, married at 18, and by 23 was a single mother of three. She worked in a factory, in shops and at other jobs — and wrote, honing her style for years before breaking through into publication.

Her first novel, “The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13¾,” was published in 1982 and hailed as a comic masterpiece. Written in the voice of a gauche but observant teenager, it fused the acute awkwardness of adolescence with the zeitgeist of Thatcher-era Britain.

The beleaguered teen bemoaning his dull suburban life and pining for unattainable classmate Pandora struck a chord with millions of readers. “I have never seen a dead body or a female nipple. This is what comes from living in a cul-de-sac,” Adrian lamented early on.

“A lot of the comedy in the book is the comedy of recognition,” Ms. Townsend told the Associated Press in 1985. “Mole writes down what he really, really thinks.”

She said her teenage protagonist “looks at the adult world in cold, stern eyes. He judges them, and they’re often found failing.”

The book was a huge success, selling more than 20 million copies around the world. Ms. Townsend followed Adrian Mole into adulthood in a series of books, several of which were adapted for the stage, radio or television. The most recent, “Adrian Mole: The Prostrate Years,” was published in 2009.

Penguin said a 10th Adrian Mole book — with a working title of “Pandora’s Box” — had been slated for publication later this year. It was unclear how much had been written before the author’s death.

Ms. Townsend’s work combined satire of social injustices and a strong sense of life’s absurdity with warmth for her characters — a distinctive combination that won her millions of fans.

A favorite with readers was “The Queen and I” (1992), which envisioned a future in which a republican British government banished the royal family to live among the common people — a situation with which they coped surprisingly well.

Her final novel, “The Woman Who Went to Bed for a Year,” was published in 2012 and sold more than 500,000 copies in Britain.

A postman’s daughter, Susan Lillian Townsend was born in Leicester on April 2, 1946.

In recent years Ms. Townsend, who had diabetes, used a wheelchair and was registered as blind. She received a transplanted kidney from her son in 2009 and suffered a stroke in 2013.

Survivors include her husband, Colin Broadway; three children from her first marriage; a daughter from her second marriage; and 10 grandchildren, the London Guardian reported.

Associated Press

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