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Sue Townsend passes on but Adrian Mole lives forever



Over the weekend, many of us learned that Sue Townsend, who wrote the epic Adrian Mole Diaries, died in the UK. These books (and the subsequent TV series) were immensely popular in the UK, Australia, New Zealand (and to some degree Canada). As a tribute to her much loved books, Canadian Stuck in the '80s correspondent Peter Ryan, who lived in the UK for five years, has written this tribute.

When news broke late last week that iconic 80s UK writer Sue Townsend, best known for her multivolumed Adrian Mole Diaries series, a collective shatter could be heard among '80s nation members that grew up reading her angst-ridden tales of a teenager coming of age in Thatcher's Britain.

Perhaps the most famous volumes of the Adrian Mole series were the first two, in which readers cringed at Adrian's social awkwardness, felt his pain at his parents' marital breakdown and secretly rooted for him in his ongoing pursuit of female protagonist Pandora Braithwaite.  But what Townsend accomplished in her writings was striking, in that it didn't matter if you were reading the Mole series in Manchester, Melbourne, Cape Town or Miami Adrian's trials and tribulations were regionally agnostic enough that any teen could relate. 

From a pure '80s perspective, the Adrian Mole Diaries should serve as a microcosm for anyone looking to understand the nuances of the UK during our favorite decade.  References to emerging cultural icons like Duran Duran and Soft Cell pepper the pages throughout the books, but there are also serious matters that Townsend explores from the perspective of a young teen, including societal divisions among the British on matters as diverse as the royal wedding in 1981 to the cold war and immigration.

Townsend's channeling of Adrian Mole spawned an equally popular television program that lasted two seasons in the 80s on ITV, and featured the legendary Oscar winning Actress Julie Walters as long-suffering mom Pauline Mole.  * Trivia note - the show's theme song Profoundly in Love with Pandora was recorded by Ian Dury, and was a minor hit on UK charts.

The durability of Sue Townsend's work was evident after her passing was announced last week, as Twitter exploded with people of all ages sending their condolences.  Perhaps most telling was the almost-instant hashtag that emerged #adrianmolewillliveforever.  For us that grew up in the 80s and re-read the Adrian Mole diaries multiple times, we know this to be true and we owe Sue Townsend our thanks.

[Last modified: Monday, April 14, 2014 2:16pm]


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