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Sue Townsend (1946)

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Susan Lillian Townsend FRSL is an English novelist and playwright, best known as the author of the Adrian Mole books. Although her writing primarily combines comedy with social commentary, she has also written purely dramatic works.


Townsend was born in Leicester and went to Glen Hills Primary school, where the school secretary was Mrs Claricotes, a name she used for the school secretary in the Adrian Mole books. Her father was a postman and she was the eldest of five sisters. After failing her 11-plus exam, Townsend then went to the secondary modern South Wigston High School. She left school at the age of 15 and worked in a variety of jobs including factory worker and shop assistant. She married a sheet-metal worker and had three children under five by the time she was 22. She joined a writers' group at the Phoenix Theatre, Leicester in her thirties. She has four children: Sean, Daniel, Victoria and Elizabeth.

At the time of writing the first Adrian Mole book, Townsend was living on the Saffron Lane Estate, a stone's-throw away from the house in which playwright Joe Orton was brought up. The Growing Pains of Adrian Mole was reputedly based on her children's experiences at Mary Linwood Comprehensive School in Leicester. Several of the teachers who appear in the book (such as Ms Fossington-Gore and Mr Dock) are based on actual staff who worked at the school in the early 1980s. When the book was televised, it was mostly filmed at a different school nearby. Mary Linwood Comprehensive was closed in 1997. the first two published stories appeared in a short-lived arts journal entitled simply magazine, the editing and production of which Townsend was involved, featuring the character then still called Nigel Mole.

The first two books in the series appealed to many readers as a realistic and humorous treatment of the inner life of an adolescent boy. They also captured something of the zeitgeist of Britain during the Thatcher period.

Townsend has suffered from diabetes for many years, as a result of which she was registered blind in 2001, and has woven this theme into her hard work.

On February 25, 2009, Leicester City Council announced that Townsend will be given the Honorary Freedom of Leicester alongside singer Engelbert Humperdinck and former professional footballer Alan Birchenall.

In September 2009, she received a kidney from her son Sean after a 2 year wait for a donor. Surgery was carried out at Leicester General Hospital and Townsend spoke to reporters about the work of the UK National Kidney Federation. Her son who fears Adrian Mole is partly based on him is said to be "very proprietorial about what he still calls his kidney".

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Whole or part of the information contained in this card come from the Wikipedia article "Sue Townsend", licensed under CC-BY-SA full list of contributors here.