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Adrian Mole author Sue Townsend dies at 68

Sad news yesterday. The death of author Sue Townsend was announced. Townsend, of course, created Adrian Mole. She was 68 and had been left blind after suffering from diabetes. She suffered a stroke in December 2012. The Guardian describes her success and where the idea for Adrian Mole came from – her own experiences.

Mole was set in the east Midlands and Townsend was herself born in Leicester, the eldest of five sisters. Her father worked in a jet engine factory and became a postman when it closed. Her mother was a housewife who worked in the factory canteen. She could not read until she was eight. It was her mother who taught her with Richmal Crompton’s Just William books – the inspiration behind Adrian.

After failing the 11-plus, she went to a secondary modern, South Wigston high school. She left at 15 but kept reading, devouring Woolworth’s Classics (Jane Eyre, Heidi and co) before moving onto Russian and American literature.

As a chain-smoking teenager, dressed in black, she was fired from a job in a clothes shop for reading Oscar Wilde’s The Ballad of Reading Gaol in the changing rooms. From the age of 14 she was also writing in secret.

The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13¾ was published in 1982 and the series totals eight books with Adrian Mole: The Prostrate Years being released in 2009. Her books made many people very happy with humour that many suburban families could easily understand.

Mole developed from an angst-ridden adolescence growing up under Margaret Thatcher’s rule to adulthood under Tony Blair. My favourite passage from Adrian Mole is where he paints his room black as a troubled teenager and then goes into deep depression. In many ways, I grew up with Adrian. He was born in 1967 and I was born in 1968. We both lived in the Midlands, he grew up in Leicester.

Full series of Mole books:

The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13¾ (1982)

The Growing Pains of Adrian Mole (1985)

The True Confessions of Adrian Albert Mole (1989)

Adrian Mole: The Wilderness Years (1993)

Adrian Mole: The Cappuccino Years (1999)

Adrian Mole and the Weapons of Mass Destruction (2004)

The Lost Diaries of Adrian Mole, 1999-2001 (2008)

Adrian Mole: The Prostrate Years (2009)

The Daily Telegraph offers the best lines from Adrian Mole, including “Perhaps when I am famous and my diary is discovered people will understand the torment of being a 13 3/4 year old undiscovered intellectual.”

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