The Woman Who Went to Bed For a Year by Sue Townsend
The day her twins leave home, Eva climbs into bed and stays there. For seventeen years she's wanted to yell at the world, 'Stop! I want to get off'. Finally, this is her chance. Her husband Brian, an astronomer having an unsatisfactory affair, is upset. Who will cook his dinner? Eva, he complains, is attention seeking. But word of Eva's defiance spreads. Legions of fans, believing she is protesting, gather in the street. While Alexander the white van man brings tea, toast and sympathy. And from this odd but comforting place Eva begins to see both herself and the world very, very differently.
So Eva waves her twins off to university, and after doing so finds a soup spoon on the chair it took two years for her to embroider. The remainder of the soup is thrown over the chair, and Eva goes to bed for an entire year. That’s basically it; there are no underlying mental health issues to speak of, no particular traumatic events in her past which have led her to this. She just feels like it.
The concept is interesting, and a lot could have been done here. Townsend starts off strongly, but we soon come to realise that although around one thousand madcap things are happening all at once, nothing is really happening at all to move the plot along.
And don’t we all feel like staying in bed for as long as possible. Let’s face it, though, there are unavoidable tasks to be completed out of bed, such as feeding ourselves and going to the toilet. Eva’s reliance on others to help her with such tasks, and her willingness to starve rather than get out of bed to find food, was maddening. She was selfish and thankless in expecting others to succumb to her every whim, such as boarding up the window, or removing every stick of furniture from the room. Had these behaviours been attributed to some sort of illness, all would have made sense, however this was just the way Eva was. I hated her.
The finale is poor, as though Townsend also gave up and went to bed without properly rounding off some of the plot points she had only just opened up. I would have liked to have seen Eva reach some sort of conclusion about the way she had treated some of her friends at family throughout her holiday in bed, or even better, I’d have liked to have seen her comeuppance.
As a lover of Adrian Mole, I wasn’t disappointed with the humour here. Townsend’s sarcasm is glorious, witty, and wonderful. Some of the one-liners from the characters had me grinning, and these made the story itself much lighter than I had expected. These flashes of comedy made the book worthwhile for me, and although the plot progression left much to be desired, I couldn’t actually put it down.
A definite lightweight novel for those looking for something not terribly taxing. Don’t expect a journey, a conclusion, or anything as funny as Mole, but you will laugh.