The Woman Who Went To Bed For A Year by Sue Townsend (Penguin)

by Patrick O'Connor


SUE Townsend, who died last year, was regarded as one of Britain's best comic writers. She was best known for her Adrian Mole books, chronicling the diaries of a schoolboy through to his mature years.

This was her last novel and in it, Townsend explores an emotion many of us may have experienced at some time or other – 'sod it, I'm fed up with all this, I'm going to stay in bed.'

In Townsend's world, librarian Eva Beaver does exactly that, only she sets out to do it for a year, after her twins Brian Junior and Brianne leave the nest to go to university.

Eva is left with husband Brian, a pompous and an uncaring astronomer husband who finds the thought of even cooking his own dinner traumatic.

When Eva announces that she is taking 'time out' to reflect on her 50 years and contemplate her navel for a while, Brian is aghast. What about Christmas? He's never organised that before. How will he cope?

The novel centres on the various people in Eva's life who come to see her in her bedroom, which she has had painted white and cleared of all furniture by dreadlocked odd-job man Alexander who becomes her confidante.

These include her mother Ruby and Brian's mother Yvonne, her window cleaner, friends and neighbours.

The family household is increased by when Brian moves into the extended shed with his hitherto secret mistress Titania and the arrival of Poppy, a slightly crazy student who cons her way into her children's circle at university.

Eventually, Eva attains almost guru-like status as strangers come from far and wide to have an audience with a woman in a bed whose common sense statements have somehow undergone a spiritual nature via heresay and gossip.

The author tackles this with wonderful droll humour which observes human nature and English eccentricity with sparkling clarity.