THE SUNDAY REVIEW | THE WOMAN WHO WENT TO BED FOR A YEAR – SUE TOWNSEND

The Woman Who Went To Bed For A Year - Sue Townsend

 
The day her children leave home, Eva climbs into bed and stays there.

She’s had enough – of her kids’ carelessness, her husband’s thoughtlessness and of the world’s general indifference.

Brian can’t believe his wife is doing this. Who is going to make dinner? Taking it badly, he rings Eva’s mother – but she’s busy having her hair done. So he rings his mother – she isn’t surprised. Eva, she says, is probably drunk. Let her sleep it off.

But Eva won’t budge.

She makes new friends – Mark the window cleaner and Alexander, a very sexy handyman. She discovers Brian’s been having an affair. And Eva realizes to her horror that everyone has been taking her for granted – including herself.

Though Eva’s refusal to behave like a dutiful wife and mother soon upsets everyone from medical authorities to her neighbours she insists on staying in bed. And from this odd but comforting place she begins to see both the world and herself very, very differently. . .

The Woman Who Went to Bed for a Year is a funny and touching novel about what happens when someone refuses to be the person everyone expects them to be. Sue Townsend, Britain’s funniest writer for over three decades, has written a brilliant novel that hilariously deconstructs modern family life. – Goodreads

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This time of year is pretty drab. There’s rain, early darkness, and an overall lack of sun. Pretty much from the end of September to early May, I wish I could make like a bear and hibernate. Which is part of what drew me to pick up this book. I’ve had it sitting around forever (I’ve got most of Sue Townsend’s books on my shelf and have read nearly all of them – I love her writing). 

The other reason is, of course, that Sue Townsend passed away earlier this year. I’ve always felt a kinship with her, since she and I both have had to deal with ongoing medical issues. Her death at just 68 years old came as a bit of a shock – and has been lingering with me ever since. It’s led me to think a lot about her, and about what her Adrian Mole series brought me as a young reader. And while part of me wanted to save up this book, in the end I decided the best way to honour her was to read one of her books I hadn’t yet enjoyed.

The Woman Who Went to Bed For a Year has a unique concept, and is a testament to Townsend’s brilliance as a storyteller. Not many writers can take a story of a woman who literally stays in her bed for a year and make it entertaining, interesting and full of vibrant characters. But she pulled it off. 

Not all of the story (nor its characters) are pleasant. Some of them are incredibly unlikeable and behave terribly. The relative economic status of the characters and their gender roles also cause some problems. I think Eva’s decision to take to her bed is, in part, a rebellion against the strains of her dual roles of wife and mother, both of which she has felt trapped by for most of her adult life. 

Like all her books, Townsend imbibes intrinsically tragic and disturbing circumstances with a slanted, dark humour. It won’t amuse everyone, but if you get it, it’s hilarious.

I admired the way she twisted her characters around, often making a character sympathetic at the start and then slowly revealing other aspects of their personality until you either dislike or flat out loathe them. And vice versa. By the end of the book the character development made me feel like I knew both the best and worst in her main characters – and that I could really see who they were because of it. 

This book was definitely darker than Townsend’s other books (particularly the end, which I wasn’t crazy about and didn’t really get), but no less skilled. It definitely made me want to re-visit Adrian Mole!

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Book Title: The Woman Who Went to Bed For a Year
Author: Sue Townsend
Series: No
Edition: Paperback
Published By: Penguin Books
Released: 2012
Genre: Fiction, Character-Driven
Pages: 437

Date Read: September 20-October 10, 2014
Rating: 7/10

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