Sue Townsend is one of my favourite authors. Everything she wrote was funny, insightful and very readable. This is the third instalment of my recommended authors series – I’ve looked at Daphne du Maurier and Stella Gibbons so far – read on to find out more about Sue Townsend’s work…
The ‘Adrian Mole’ series are, I think, Sue Townsend’s most famous books and also her best. Beginning with The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole aged 13 3/4 in 1982 and ending with The Prostrate Years (2009), the author chronicles the ups and downs of a working class intellectual boy in the classic diary format. Sue Townsend had quite a colourful life and a lot of health problems (these worked their way into her books); sadly she died in 2014 and so there are no more of Adrian’s diaries. Occasionally I see the books in the children’s section of bookshops, but they are actually adult books. They are about life in all its mundanity and quirkiness, while encompassing themes very important to the (socialist) author such as poverty, class, politics, social injustice and (later on) the war on terror. The main reason I read them, however, is because they’re hilarious. Also, I find diary novels really easy to read because the entries are short. Finally, being from the same region of the UK as the author makes the series extra interesting to me. The first book in this series was turned into a musical at Leicester’s Curve Theatre in 2015 (Sue Townsend worked on it but never got to see the performance) which was brilliant and focused on Adrian’s romantic and family life. There was a TV series in the 80s which was pretty good and had a theme tune by Ian Dury.
Another of Sue Townsend’s older books is The Queen and I (1992). It imagines the country voting to be a republic… and the Royal Family are booted out of the palace and housed on a council estate, where they learn what it’s like to be working class. They find that basically it sucks to be poor but that there are some lovely people out there. I found this book a little dated, but amusing, and it’s a must-read for anyone who wonders what Britain would be like without the monarchy. There was a sequel, Queen Camilla, in 2006.
Number Ten (published in 2002) is a parody of Tony Blair and Co. in which the Prime Minister attempts to go undercover in Britain to find out what people really think of him. I thought it was OK, but maybe if I’d read it soon after publication and not fifteen years later, it would’ve resonated more.
The Woman Who Went to Bed for a Year (2012) was her last book and is about the effect upon the family (and the world) when a woman won’t leave her bedroom. I remember liking it, but probably wouldn’t read it again. I’ve also read her lesser-known novel Rebuilding Coventry (1988) and trio of plays Bazaar and Rummage / Groping for Words / Womberang. I can tell that J K Rowling’s work is definitely influenced by Sue Townsend, as are many other writers. Both authors feature on my list of top thirty books.
Have you read any of Sue Townsend’s work? Which authors do you find funny?!