Sue Townsend will be remembered as one of “this country’s great comic writers”, her publisher has said.
Townsend died yesterday (10th April) aged 68, after suffering a stroke last weekend.
Her agent Jonathan Lloyd of Curtis Brown called Townsend a “living miracle”, saying that she had continued to write despite her many health problems – she had diabetes and was registered blind in 2001.
The author, published by Penguin, is best known for her Adrian Mole books, which began in 1982 with The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole aged 13 3/4. The Growing Pains of Adrian Mole was released in 1984, and further novels followed the character through marriage and middle age.
Tom Weldon, c.e.o. of Penguin Random House, said Penguin Books was “deeply saddened” by Townsend’s death. He continued: “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.”
Lloyd said: “The sadness is we won’t have any more new Sue Townsend books, but we will have so many memories. And new fans will discover her work too.”
Townsend’s latest book was The Woman Who Went to Bed for a Year, published in 2012 by Michael Joseph. Lloyd said he and Townsend’s editor Louise Moore at Michael Joseph would take trips up to Leicester to visit Townsend. “She was such fun to deal with,” Lloyd said. ”Sue was so young and so talented and so brilliant. Her work will live on,” he added.
Tim Walker, president of the Booksellers Association, and owner of Walkers bookshops in Oakham and Stamford, said: "In my formative years when I was a teenager, the cult book to read was The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole. It is easy to forget just how huge that book was. We have had tremendous success with her last few books and her passing will be a great loss to the book industry. She lived near Leicester, so it is particularly poignant for us that she has passed away."
Jon Howells, spokesperson for Waterstones, said: "For those of us of Adrian Mole’s generation, Sue Townsend was a giant, one of the writers that taught us about sympathy, introspection and, of course, satire." He added: "It should not be forgotten that her other novels were (also) hugely successful, especially the hilarious and – for its day – controversial, The Queen and I. I am sure that booksellers everywhere will be bringing her books to the fore today, there are plenty of new readers out there to discover her empathetic genius. My eldest daughter is about the age I was when Mole’s first Secret Diary was published – I know what I’ll be buying her today."
The Bookseller's associate editor Cathy Rentzenbrink commented: "The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole was a crossover book before the term had been invented, pored over by children and their parents alike, each group hoping to be enlightened on the nature of the other. I am just a couple of years younger than Adrian and remember my friends trying to cope with the challenges of their parents’ divorces and new partners, very much as Adrian does when he surveys his mother’s Valentine cards. The funniest and sharpest writer of satire, Sue Townsend was also the kindest, her humour always cut with compassion and her jokes never cruel. She was a giant among comic novelists and make bookshops brighter places."