Today is 10th April 2017, three years to the day that Sue Townsend passed away at the age of 68. While she did write other books, (The Queen And I in particular is brilliant) it’s Adrian Mole that she’ll be forever associated with. `They’re the books that basically got me into reading. That and Horrible Histories are the books I can remember from my childhood that I still keep today (well I say childhood, I was about 10 when I started reading them). And it turns out I’m not alone in that (well, the Adrian Mole books anyway, sadly not enough people read Horrible Histories). I remember when she died, i spent the day browsing the comments section of websites and searching on Twitter, finding many people who had a similar experience: they read the books as children, liked them and had it kick of an appreciation of literature, read them again as adults, loved them.
What started as just one book a family member told me to read has no spread out into a love of literature for which I am glad. I have read books that made me laugh, books that made me cry, and books that changed the way I view the world, and it’s all because of a fictional pretentious teenager from the Midlands. It was the first time I saw a main character who didn’t have the characteristics of a main character. He wasn’t popular, he didn’t have any skills, and (despite what he may have thought) he wasn’t very clever either. This wasn’t the story of something amazing, it was the story of something very ordinary, and that in of itself was amazing.
The books weren’t outright political but simply made a personalised record of politics at the time, which made them political, and this was a theme that spread throughout the series. From the later books where the character writes to Tony Blair to get him to provide evidence that WMD’s could hit Cyprus so he could get money back on a cancelled holiday, to the early books where he frantically searches for the Falklands on a map after hearing of the invasion, only for his Mother to come in and find them under a wayward crumb of cake. It was a weird time in British history, a unpopular female Conservative Prime Minister was thinking of declaring war on a foreign country over the ownership of a small useless island we didn’t need anymore, just to make herself more popular with the tabloid press which started using jingoistic and racial slurs daily.
What makes the books truly resonate among people is the accuracy of them. We read them and see a small piece of ourselves, and then hope we weren’t that bad, but truthfully a small part of us knows that we were. His poetry was hilariously awful, and his logic a little bit strange
“my skin is dead good. I think it must be a combination of being in love, and lucozade”
but for that we loved him, and cringed at the every mistake and misconception (of which their were many). It’s an odd series to binge-read as you read basically his entire life; from a confused adolescent, through to a confused single father with prostate cancer. You see the character grow before your very eyes, and see how not only the character develops, but how the world develops too. We see him recall the Iraq War, royal weddings, royal deaths, and his own personal tragedies which everyone goes through; divorces, family deaths and break ups.
I still remember when the author died, and sadly it was only after hearing that she died that I found out more about Sue Townsend, and it made for sad reading. She had TB peritonitis at 23, a heart attack in her 30’s, charcot joint degenerative arthritis, suffered from diabetes, registered blind in 2001, suffered kidney failure in 2007, and had a stroke in 2013. I read that and immediately felt awful for her, the fact that she continued to write such funny material is a huge testament to both her character and her talent. And whilst I am glad she’s not suffering in anyway right now, a small selfish part of me is disappointed that Adrian will no longer update his diary.