Georgie Hall, Woman of a Certain Rage

Georgie Hall, Woman of a Certain Rage

Dear Sue Townsend,

In 1982, you changed my life.

I was aged precisely thirteen and three quarters when my parents decided that the fictional diary of a similarly self-obsessed teenager would be the perfect Christmas gift. They were right. Not only did The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole bring me joyful hours giggling over its utter brilliance, but it fuelled my desire to write comedy.

I’m ashamed to admit it was years before I found out more about the woman who created Adrian, and who became Britain’s bestselling writer in the 80s. To me, Adrian Albert Mole existed in his own universe back then. Like Harry Potter and Bridget Jones who later walked in his chart-topping footsteps, he was the headline act to his peers while his creator remained behind a velvet curtain.

But yours was the voice that sang, of course. Later I discovered how much that voice was shaped by early knocks and ill health, and how lucky we all are that you found a way through adversity to share it with us. I love its kindness, the compassionate socialism always threaded in, your anger at life’s injustices, at its poverty, at its pretension. Above all I love its humour. Adrian Mole’s character is perfectly pitched, the minutiae of his gripes filtering the state of the nation into bite-sized brilliance.

When I started writing my first novel in 1993, Adrian Mole’s fourth diary The Wilderness Years had just come out. Like me, Adrian was now in his twenties and (still) struggling to be a published author, his Lo, The Flat Hills of my Homeland failing to find its home. Unlike Adrian, I got lucky.

Looking back, I often cited the 80s ‘bonkbusters’ as my influences: Jackie Collins, Jilly Cooper, Shirley Conran et al, which I devoured in my teens. And while they were undeniably a springboard for the first big sexy romps I wrote as Fiona Walker in the 90s and still write today, comedy became my unique selling point, and for that I owe a far greater debt to you.

Through Adrian Mole, you made us laugh and think, a genius that’s exceptionally rare. I’m so grateful to have grown up alongside him. The shadow of disappointment which lengthens through the eight books that follow him from teenager to midlife never diminishes from their humour or humanity; it just adds to their truth.

When I discovered your other work – the glorious The Queen and I, the subversively action-packed Rebuilding Coventry, as well as the many plays and radio dramas - I saw the variety, strength and subtlety of a true wordsmith and comedy genius. You and Victoria Wood now take pride of place on my reference shelf with the thesauruses and dictionaries to remind to keep learning from the best. It breaks my heart we lost you both too soon, two of Britain’s great funny women.

Your final novel, The Woman Who Went to Bed for a Year, struck a particularly close chord. Not enough books focus on women in midlife, less still with such unabashed humour and warmth. Writing as Georgie Hall, I take a lead from that, as I hope many others will too. You remain an inspiration to us all.

With much love,

Georgie Hall, AKA Fiona Walker (aged fifty-two and three quarters).

Woman of a Certain Rage was published by Head of Zeus on 12th May 2022.

RELATED: An open letter to Jilly Cooper by Elly Griffiths, author of The Night Hawks

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