With the recent thirtieth anniversary of the Adrian Mole series, all eyes are on Sue Townsend’s new novel, and her opening chapter immediately sets up a series of comic possibilities. Eva Beaver’s gifted twins, Brian and Brianne, leave home to begin their life at Leeds University, she disconnects the phone, pours tomato soup over her favourite armchair, climbs the stairs and gets into bed, where she remains for a year.
Whilst we can perhaps relate to Eva’s new lifestyle choice, through the occasional duvet day with a hangover, Eva takes it to the extreme, expecting others to feed her and even dispose of her bodily waste in little freezer bags so that she can remain in her crisp white bed linen and ‘think’.
The concept of the novel is no doubt compelling. Townsend portrays the perplexity and bewilderment of a woman who, feeling unappreciated and frustrated by the monotony of her daily domestic duties, withdraws from the world. But unfortunately many of her characters teeter precariously on the brink of absurdity. Eva’s bearded husband, Brian, (who she realised she no longer loved ‘eleven minutes into the wedding ceremony’) lives in their garden shed with his lover. Many characters lack depth or complexity, but nonetheless their quirky mannerisms and witty dialogue are certainly comic.
Regrettably, the novel’s many loose ends and its unsatisfactory conclusion leaves you disappointed, but the novel’s faults should not undermine Townsend’s dazzling bursts of humour. It is an enjoyable, easy-read, and effectively showcases the author’s creative brilliance. The Woman Who Went to Bed For a Year inspires mixed feelings, but it is certainly indicative of how the bestselling author of Adrian Mole still possesses the ability to produce a novel that is both poignant and funny.
The Woman Who Went To Bed For A Year is available now from Penguin
words: Emma Porter