image The Woman Who Went to Bed for A Year: Sue Townsend

Sue Townsend can do more than Adrian Mole. Most people know that anyone but if you don’t, please read this book. You won’t be disappointed.

Eva Beaver is a librarian from Leicester (where else) who dispatches her husband Brian to deliver their twin children Brian Junior and Brianne to Leeds University. Having done this, having deposited her chicks firmly out of the nest and into the wide world of West Yorkshire, she proceeds to go upstairs, pull back her white sheets (the ones she has spent a lifetime washing) and get into bed. Nothing out of the ordinary, really, one might think- but Eva Beaver is no ordinary woman, and when the time comes to get out of bed, she quite simply doesn’t.

The book can be viewed as a story of depression; certainly there are times when Eva retreats to sadness, but it is hysterically funny at the same time, and Townsend provides us with a terrific cast of characters who as the book continues begin to visit Eva in a stream of bizarre encounters, all conducted, of course, while Eva lies in bed. For seventeen years the poor woman has wanted to do this, to take a break from the endless domesticity of raising a family, but now that she’s done it the world wants answers. It is not content to merely let her lie. Eva’s witless husband Brian, an astronomer ensconced in a deeply unsatisfactory affair, is at a loss as to what to do (or more accurately, is  panicked about who will iron his shirts and above all, who will cook his dinner).

As legions of people begin to line the street of Eva Beaver’s house, desperate to see the woman who has refused to set foot on the ground for months and months, Townsend writes with her usual laugh out loud wit and her sharply observant commentaries on the political state of England, the royal family, and the notion of modern family life itself. The public begins to think of Eva as some sort of Messiah; she gains die-hard fans who sleep outside the house and garners notoriety within Leicester and further afield for her absolute refusal to leave her bed. There are poignant moments; she clearly does miss her twins even though she will barely admit it to herself; she refuses to answer the telephone but grumpily thinks that there are “other forms of communication” which Brianne and Brian Junior are failing to use. On one occasion she makes a list of the ‘worst pains’ she has ever had in her life, including giving birth to her children, falling from a high branch onto concrete and being bitten by a pig – Townsend is comical, yet masks a darker side to the story and hints at a real unhappiness going on behind the scenes. It is subtly done, but there nonetheless, and we love the book all the more for having a heart of gold while simultaneously the ability to make one laugh out loud on public transport.

So does Eva Beaver ever get out of bed? That you’ll have to find out for yourself. Buy the book!

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