Tributes have been paid to Adrian Mole author Sue Townsend who has died aged 68.
Townsend, who was left blind after suffering from diabetes for many years, achieved worldwide success with the publication of her best-known work, The Secret Diary Of Adrian Mole, aged 13 3/4, in 1982.
Her publishers, Penguin Books, said she died yesterday “surrounded by her family” after suffering a stroke.
Tom Weldon, chief executive of Penguin Random House UK, said: “Sue Townsend will be remembered as one in a handful of this country’s great comic writers. We were so proud to be her publishers. She was loved by generations of readers, not only because she made them laugh out loud, but because her view of the world, its inhabitants and their frailties was so generous, life affirming and unique.”
Stephen Mangan, who played Adrian Mole in a 2001 television adaptation, tweeted his condolences, saying: “Greatly upset to hear that Sue Townsend has died. One of the warmest, funniest and wisest people I ever met.”
Writer Caitlin Moran said she was “One of the funniest women who ever lived”.
Townsend was born in Leicester in 1946, and set her most famous work in her home city.
She left school at the age of 15, married at 18 and by 23 was a single parent with three children.
After writing in secret for 20 years while working as a factory worker, shop assistant and youth worker, she eventually joined a writers’ group at the Phoenix Theatre in Leicester when she was in her 30s.
At 35 she won the Thames Playwright Award for her play Womberang and a year later published the first in her series about Adrian Mole, which she had begun writing in 1975 while living in Leicester’s Saffron Lane estate.
The Secret Diary Of Adrian Mole aged 13 3/4 was published in 1982 and was an instant hit going on to sell more than 20 million copies around the world.
It was followed by The Growing Pains Of Adrian Mole in 1984 and six others in the Mole series, including The True Confessions Of Adrian Albert Mole and most recently Adrian Mole: The Prostrate Years, in 2009.
Much of Townsend’s life was blighted by illness. She had a heart attack in her 30s and suffered from diabetes for many years, leaving her registered blind in 2001 and forced to resort to dictating her work.
In 2009 she had a kidney transplant, also a complication of her diabetes, which was donated by her son, Sean.
Speaking in 2012 she said: ‘’He felt it more than I did. I’m used to having operations but he’d never been in hospital before. There was never any hesitation, though.
“I was thrilled he was going to give me his kidney, but also scared for him and truly appreciated it.’’
In recent years she was left wheelchair-bound, with neuropathy in her limbs.
Townsend also wrote a number of other novels, including The Queen And I, as well as further plays and two non-fiction books.
Her latest novel, The Woman Who Went to Bed for a Year, has sold more than half a million copies in the UK since it was published in 2012.
Several of her books were adapted for the stage, while the Mole series were adapted for radio, television and theatre.
In 2001 she wrote The Public Confessions Of A Middle-Aged Woman aged 55 3/4, a collection of monthly columns written for Sainsbury’s magazine from 1993 to 2001.
Townsend was awarded an honorary Masters of Arts from Leicester University and in 2008 was made a Distinguished Honorary Fellow, the highest award the university can give.
She was also an Honorary Doctor of Letters at Loughborough University and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.
In 2009 Townsend was given the Honorary Freedom of Leicester. She said at the time: ‘’I have been a citizen of Leicester for over 62 years, most of my family and friends live here, so I was delighted when I was nominated to receive the freedom of the city.’’
She leaves behind her widower, Colin Broadway, and four children.
Sue Townsend’s tales of Adrian Mole - the endearing adolescent would-be intellectual - sold in their millions making her one of the most successful British authors of recent times.
Here are some of the best lines from the books that entertained generations of readers.
* “I have never seen a dead body or a female nipple. This is what comes from living in a cul de sac.” - the young Adrian despairs of life in suburban Leicester.
* “After hearing the disgusting noises from downstairs last night, I have also vowed never to drink alcohol.” - Adrian is outraged after his parents host a party.
* “Pandora! / I adore ya / I implore ye / Don’t ignore me”. - One of Adrian’s early attempts at verse inspired by his love of the unobtainable Pandora Braithwaite.
* “It is the first day of spring. The council have chopped all the elms down in Elm Tree Avenue.” - The arrival of spring upsets the young poet.
* “My mother wants to move. She wants to sell the house that I have lived in all my life. She said that we will need more room ‘for the baby’. How stupid can you get? Babies hardly take any space at all. They are only about 21 inches long.” - A new arrival threatens Adrian’s settled existence.
* “Had a note from Mr Cherry asking me when I can resume my paper round. I sent a note back to say that due to my mother’s desertion I am still in a mental state. This is true. I wore odd socks yesterday without knowing it. One was red and one was green. I must pull myself together. I could end up in a lunatic asylum.” - His parents’ separation has a disastrous effect on Adrian’s life and his paper round.