LONDON (Reuters) - British author Sue Townsend, who found international fame chronicling the travails through life of self-obsessed "Adrian Mole", has died aged 68, her publishers said on Friday.
Townsend, who had to dictate novels in her later years after losing her sight because of diabetes, passed away peacefully at her home in Leicester, central England, after suffering a stroke, Penguin Books said in a statement.
She found success after penning the "The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole aged 13-3/4" in 1982, detailing a boy's comedic exploits as he dealt with adolescence against the backdrop of Margaret Thatcher's time as prime minister.
The novel sold more than 20 million copies worldwide and a sequel two years later made her the best-selling novelist of the 1980s. She went on to write six more books in the hugely popular Mole series.
"Sue Townsend will be remembered as one in a handful of this country's great comic writers," said Tom Weldon, chief executive of Penguin Random House.
"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."
Townsend, who left school at 15 and had a variety of jobs from factory worker to shop assistant, wrote in secret for 20 years before joining a writer's group based at a theatre in Leicester.
Aged 35 she won an award for her first play "Womberang" and began her writing career in earnest. Towards the end of her career she grappled with a diabetic condition that robbed her of her balance and much of her eyesight.
"I allow myself to indulge in self-pity when I am on my own but I do not want to write about it. I am anxious not to be seen as Mother Courage," she told Reuters in a 2006 interview after penning a satire on Britain's royal family.
Her last novel, "The Woman Who Went to Bed for a Year," was published in 2012 and sold more than half a million copies in Britain alone. However, it is for her books about Mole and his dysfunctional family that she will be best remembered.
"Greatly upset to hear that Sue Townsend has died," actor Stephen Mangan, who played Adrian Mole in a BBC TV adaptation, said on Twitter. "One of the warmest, funniest and wisest people I ever met."
Reporting by Michael Holden Editing by Jeremy Gaunt