If anyone ever tells you that women aren’t as funny as men, say two words in reply: Sue Townsend.
Sue Townsend wrote the funniest book I’ve ever read: The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, aged 13 3/4. I read it at just the right time of my life – aged around 15 or 16, when I was just a year or so older than Adrian Mole when he wrote his first diaries. When asked why she had written about a teenage boy and not a girl, Sue Townsend replied that she believed boys and girls were pretty much the same at that time of their life. She certainly described my childhood (and I sometimes fear she is describing part of my adulthood, too.)
Like many excellent writers, Sue Townsend knew that the best writing is often the simplest. One of her most inspired passages is to be found in The Wilderness Years, where she simply describes the food that Adrian eats one Sunday afternoon round his Grandma’s house. It’s nothing more than a list, but it sums up my childhood perfectly, sitting in front of the coke fire at my Grandmother’s house, reading the Sunday People and then watching something like Bullseye on the television.
Sue Townsend died on Thursday evening, aged 68. She left behind one of the most consistently funny and moving series of books ever written, books filled with a well realised air of righteous indignation about them. Sue Townsend was on the side of the forgotten people, the failures, the Adrian Moles of this world.
She will be missed.