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I had big hopes for this book, when I realised the author was Sue Townsend, creator of the Adrian Mole series. Sadly, I was hugely disappointed.
The story revolves around the main character Eva, and her husband Brian. They are quite a dull couple, who are parents to twins Brian and Brianne. When the twins leave for university, Eva is left with a big hole in her world, and decides to go to bed to disengage from the world for a little while. She didn't know at the time that this trip to bed would end up lasting a year, nor did she think she would meet some of the characters and find herself in some strange situations from the safety of her own bed......
With the plot being as complicated as the title, no really, that's it, it's a book about a woman who went to bed for a year, you'd hope the characters would be strong enough to make this a worthwhile read. I guess you could argue that the characters are strong, BUT they are also ridiculous. The main character Eva is a stereotypical middle aged woman who feels empty once her children leave home. Nothing ground-breaking about that. Of course, she is still beautiful, and completely taken for granted by her useless husband Brian. Yawn.
Brian himself is a wet lettuce, who has a boring job involving astronomy and is incapable of showing genuine affection, despite having a bit of an eye for the ladies. Imagine the Demon Headmaster mixed with Martin from Ever Decreasing Circles, and you kind of get the idea. Despite his complete lack of charm and personality, he manages to attract other women with whom he has pointless affairs. Quite why this happens I have no idea, as the women in question don't even seem to like him, and he is about as passionate as I imagine John Major would be.
The twins....well, where to begin. Firstly, we have the hilarious names, Brian and Brianne. Yes, this couple have so little imagination that they have named both their son and daughter after the father. They have a very strong bond, as you tend to find happens with twins, but this bond is made rather strange by their geekiness and lack of social interaction with the rest of the world. I wouldn't go so far as to say their relationship borders on incestuous, but there's something very odd about them. They are, of course, geniuses.
There's a multitude of other characters who feature in the book, all as ridiculous as the ones I've already mentioned. I won't go through them all as there isn't much to discover in terms of plot, so if I give away all the characters there would be even less point in reading it than there already is. One worth mentioning is the hilariously named Titania....whose name gets shortened to Tit throughout the book. Seriously, it's hilarious. If you're twelve or in need of a sense of humour by-pass.
You can probably tell from my analysis of the characters that I didn't particularly enjoy this book. The characters are ridiculous and the plot even more so. I found it so strange that nobody questioned the mental health of a woman who refused to leave her bed for a year, but instead everyone panders to her and makes her out to be some kind of hero. Still, I guess Social Services have better things to worry about.
With the author being well known for creating the character of Adrian Mole, I was hoping this book would be similarly amusing, providing witty observations and insightful characters. What I got instead was a book which had a ridiculous plot, even more ridiculous characters, and barely managed to raise a smile. There are no clever observations about relationships, unless perhaps they were so deep they went over my head. The only vague recollection I have of thinking "yeah that's true" when it came to observing human behaviour was when Eva was describing the dinner parties she and her husband had hosted over the years, and the couples who attended seeming like the perfect couple at first, but then started to bicker as the evening progressed, correcting each other on minor details when telling anecdotes. That's about as insightful as this book gets, so if you were planning to read it I've just saved you a few hours of your life.
I can't really bring myself to recommend this book, although I'm giving it two stars because it wasn't SO bad that I didn't make it to the end. It's not very exciting, the plot is non-existant, and the characters are ridiculous. If you still want to read it, do make sure you're sitting back in your chair because when you hear a grown woman being called "Tit", you're likely to fall off it laughing......
(Review also appears on Ciao under the username Gingerkitty)
Sue Townsend is one of the nation's best known and well loved comedy writers. She is best known for the creation of Adrian Mole, and his diaries that have seen him transform from a spotty youth to a middle aged man.
This book however is not an Adrian Mole book. Instead we find ourselves getting to know Brian and Eva Beaver and their twin offspring, imaginatively (and bizarrely!) named Brian Jr and Brianna. The twins are both maths geniuses and at the age of 17 they leave home after doing their A-Levels 1 year early, and make their way to Leeds University (to follow their hero's footsteps, who also studied at that particular university).
It is a culture shock to the twins but as they struggle to deal with their new found freedom, there is also a major change going on at home. As is the title of the book, once the twins have left, Eva takes to her bed and stays there. Brian is distraught and calls upon both his and Eva's mothers for advice, meeting with various comments and complaints as only mothers/mothers-in-law can give!
A phone call out of the blue then changes everything for everyone, when it is discovered that Brian Sr has been having an affair for the past 8 years with his colleague Titania (they bonded over their mutual distress over the Columbia disaster) and in time, she moves into his shed, though the happy ending she longed for seems to be a long time coming.
To deal with this betrayal, Eva decides that she wants no furniture in her bedroom, and for the room to be white. In time, her legend grows, and a chance encounter with a stranger who visits her catapults her to internet stardom and the extreme fans that such notoriety brings.
There seems to be a recurrent theme of mental illness through this book. The twins have autistic traits, the character of Poppy is a pathological liar and an attention seeker and it is assumed by many that Eva's behaviour is as a result of some sort of breakdown. Even the district nurse seems to assume that Eva is mentally unstable. The book has the opportunity to educate people about mental illness, but it seems to have missed the mark somehow.
I think this is partly due to the fact that, in my opinion, the characters are on the whole, unlikeable. Eva could be a warm character, who is dealing with her circumstances in the best way she knows how, but instead comes across as selfish and spoilt. Her husband Brian also seems to have his selfish side as well, although he does seem to stand by Eva, even though it would be easier and more convenient for him to leave. The twins have an ugly side, and this only seems to get worse further on in the book. The only characters that had any redeeming features, in my opinion, were the mothers of Brian and Eva and the odd-jobs man who befriended Eva, as these characters seemed to be the main caregivers.
Townsend's books all seem to have the recurrent theme of a social commentary, and while this is true of this book, I find that unlike a lot of Townsend's other characters, few are believable. There also seems to be random characters and stories added that add nothing to the overall story. There also seemed to be a lack of laugh out loud moments, I only laughed once while reading the book, not quite the 'laugh until I cried' review from the Daily Mail that appears on the cover.
I wanted to like this book as I love Sue Townsend, but I didn't. In some places it seems that Sue is trying too hard to be funny, and failing. I also found the ending very rushed, and answering no real questions. It's almost as if Townsend got fed up with the book and ended it quite suddenly. Either that, or she is planning a sequel, although none of the characters seem worthy of a sequel. I had hoped for a somewhat happy ending, but it didn't materialise, and I was also disappointed that some of more negative characters didn't get some sort of comeuppance.
It seems that this book seems to be marmite amongst Townsend's fans, some people found it hilarious and some were extremely disappointed with this. My copy cost me 50p in a charity shop, so I didn't waste much money thankfully, but I can't say the book is worth more than what I paid for it and it will be returning to the charity shop soon.
Eva seems content in her cosy middle class life looking after husband the astronomer Dr Brian Beaver and her twin teenage children Brian junior and Brianne. Obviously things were not as rosy as they seemed for Eva as on the day that the twins go to university she takes to her bed in the middle of the day and announces that she is going to stay there for a year.
This annoys Titania (known as Tit) who Brian had been having an affair with as now he has another reason not to leave his wife. His life falls apart and he moves into his garden shed with his lover and calls on his mother and mother and law for assistance in dealing with his troublesome wife. They assume Eva has had some kind of mental breakdown but she seems happy enough tucked up in bed chatting to her new friend Alexander the odd job man as well as welcoming visits from the window cleaner and passing taxi drivers.
When Eva helps a passing taxi driver with a personal problem he tells the whole world and Eva is assumed to have special wisdom and soon people are making a pilgrimage to come and see her.
What is the truth about Eva's condition? Is she mad, sad or a modern day messiah and what will it take for her to get out of bed again?
TWWWtBfaY is a bit of a farcical story with ridiculous plot lines which are sometimes funny and sometimes miss the mark completely. It was easy to sympathise with Eva at first, after all who would not want to escape a life of domestic drudgery with the hapless Brian? I think we have all had days when we wish we could climb back into bed and pull the covers up around our ears and taking time out to simply contemplate what is going on in your life seems like a nice idea. The problem is that when your central character is confined to a single room then you are rather stuck when it comes to finding plot ideas. This means you need to bring the story to the main character and you get ridiculous plots like people paying pilgrimage to her.
The characters are an offbeat mish mash of oddballs and eccentrics but are also in general unsympathetic and crude charictitures. We have the bumbling academic in the shape of Brian, the mildly autistic and socially inept maths whiz kids in the form of the twins, interfering mother in laws, overworked doctors and dimwit policemen to name a few. There were only a couple of characters in the whole book who had any depth. By the end of the book I couldn't care less whether Eva left her bed or stayed there and rotted.
Sue Townsend is known for her witty writing style and whilst there were some laugh out loud moments, particularly when Brian tries to cope with domestic life, there were also a lot of jokes which just got on my nerves. A lot of the humour seemed to be based on giving people silly names or making them look foolish which just seems childish to me.
I have been a fan of Sue Townsend for many years and grew up with the Adrian Mole books. What she does best is sharp social and political satire but this was sadly lacking in her latest book. I think the whole book was meant to be some kind of comment on middle class life but it missed the mark somehow. There is so much potential material for Townsend to work on right now with the Con-Dems in power, the age of austerity and the royals enjoying a surge in popularity that it was a real shame that she did not use the current social climate as the basis of her book.
Being well known for her Adrian Mole series which I read back in the day, I was interested to see Sue Townsend had a new book out which looked to be so different from what she is known for. The title also appealed to me (as i think it does to every woman who ever happens to glance at it) so I gave it a go.
The story is centred around the Beaver family and more specifically Eva; wife to astronomer Brian and mother to twins Brianne and Brian Junior. The story begins on the day the twins first leave for university. Whilst Brian is out driving them there, Eva takes to her bed and makes the conscious decision not to get out again for a year.
This book is extremely well written. It would be easy to assume that a book about a woman lying in bed for a year could be boring and slow moving but it is actually very funny, touching and easy to relate to. The reactions to Eva's decision, along with the thoughts of Eva herself allow a deep insight into each of the characters and their complex relationships and although there are some very thought provoking ideas and messages stuffed in there, they are subtle and the book is a light, fun and easy read.
Sue Townsend is an author who is very well known to me for her Adrian Mole series, which was a good portrayal of her writing style of observational humour. I have not read her work for many years, and I was pleasantly surprised last month when my husband bought me this book as a birthday gift last month.
The title alone grabbed me. I am often mentally and physically exhausted myself, so the idea of a woman taking to her bed for an entire year intrigued me. My husband said as he gave it me, that I might get some tips.
The story features what must be on the outside of it, a fairly normal family situation. The Beaver family have a nice normal existence living in a fairly typical house in Leicester. Dad Brian is an Astronomer at the University. Mum Eva is a housewife who keeps the place nice, attends an occasional evening class, and potters, and two teenage children, twins - Brianne and Brian Junior.
We start on the day that Brian is driving the twins to go to University for the first time. Eva finds a stain in her favourite arm chair, and she suddenly decides she has had enough and gets into bed. While there, she makes the decision that she will not actually get up again for a whole year.
Weeks and months pass, and the story is surprisingly quite action packed to say one of the main characters is sat in bed for the whole time.
The humour in this book is a bit strange to me. It starts off with funny anecdotes about a family which falls apart a bit when the kids leave home. You can laugh at Brian's attempts at managing a household, from his cooking disasters, to his inability to know how to handle what his wife is doing.
You lose that humour a bit in some scenes, for example, a very poignant moment when Brian asks Eva how he should organise Christmas, and she takes him step through step the horrors she had endured the year before, and you feel so sorry for the woman as we have all chased our tails at some point in life to try and meet a deadline, and while what she is saying is funny, there is something tragic there too.
I don't know if my background makes me look at this book in a slightly different way to some other people, but I have dealt with some extreme bouts of depression in my time, and I could definitely see a woman on the brink at several points in this story. After all, why else would any human being shrink away from the world by restricting themselves to just one small room unless they were suffering some sort of breakdown.
The story is quite sad in places for me, as this woman has dedicated her life to her family, and she is just a bit lost at the end of the journey as to what should happen for her next.
The pace of this book was pretty good. I found that there was always something interesting to keep me going and I read it pretty quickly in the end over just a couple of evenings. My version is a 437 page hardback, with fairly large typeset, but it still went quickly for me.
As well as being amused, I was saddened at times on behalf of the main character at least. The other characters although real people almost felt a bit like caricatures of people. The twins are very nerdy and obsessed with gadgets. Dad Brian is the typical bearded randy Physicist, who in my mind could be straight from a 1970s science programme. Eva is the only one amongst them you could describe as normal, and it makes you wonder if they really would be if it were real people.
Overall, I would say I did enjoy the book, but it was a bit farcical at times and on the verge of fantasy. It is not the sort of event you could imagine in real life. Sue Townsend has a very unique style that I cannot really compare to anyone else I have read before. This is well written, and I think most women and men would read this and enjoy it, though the woman are more likely to identify with the frustrations of the stereotypical housewife. I hold my hand up, I have wanted to pause life for a little while so I can think and catch my breath, and although a year in bed sounds a bit much, a week is still very tempting.
This is a very recent publication from March this year, and is currently available in paperback for between £10 and £20, depending on where you purchase it.
This is a review of the 2012 book "The Woman who went to bed for a year" by Sue Townsend. I had eagerly awaited the release of this book as it is by one of my favourite authors. Other than the title I had no idea what it would be about. I received the hard back as a birthday present and tried to save it for a while but once I started it I had read it within 48 hours.
A bit about
In the book, we follow Eva Beaver, a 55 year old woman, mother of twins that have just left for university and wife of Astronomy Professor Brian. She is tired and fed up of her life and one day she gets in bed fully clothed (including her stilettoes) and vows she is going to stay there for a year. She doesn't know why and is not sure what she is trying to achieve but is determined that she will stay there. During the first few weeks she has a lot of bemused visitors who are concerned for her health but she just tells them she is fine.
Aside from Eva, Brian and the twins Brian Junior and Brianne there is Eva's Mother Ruby and Brian's mother Yvonne. Poppy, shares rooms with the twins at Uni and Titania is Brian's fancy bit on the side. Alexander is the odd job man and the window cleaner also spends time with Eva in her bedroom prison.
The author addresses issues we want answering as a reader. For instance, if bed bound, how will Eva go to the toilet? She considers a potty but decides it will be too messy for standards will not slip with her hair and makeup whilst in bed. She constructs a 'milky way' path to the adjoining en suite using a bed sheet and as long as she stays on the path she feels it is just an extension of her bed. This way she can still shower and attend to her personal needs.
Is she mad?
Eva remains pretty sane throughout the circus that visits her bed and everyone else is convinced she is insane. The twins decide it is easier to ditch her than sympathise with her and Brian finds her an inconvenience but he still loves her a bit in addition to his long standing affair with Tit. As Eva removes all the furniture from her room and also gets Alex to paint it all white, it is clear she is trying to clear her head and create a bit of me time. In order to keep fit, Eva does exercises in her bed, cycling her legs and swinging her arms around. She remains slim and pretty for those who visit her. I did wonder if she would get obese lying in bed all day but sometimes her family forget to feed her and she refuses to stash food in her room so she relies on them to bring food.
This book is unmistakeable in its style and I could have guessed the author immediately without knowing it. Townsend writes with comedy interwoven and yet manages to convey how vulnerable we all are and how we need friends and family to keep sane.
I enjoyed reading this book and it was interesting despite being set mainly in one room in one house. Eva has worked hard for her family all her married life and when it comes to her, she soon finds out who her friends are. As she refuses to leave the bed, she is dependent on them for food and to a certain extent news and they often forget she is there. During Christmas dinner they have a few waifs and strays around the table and they have a jolly time, whilst Eva stays in bed above their heads.
A limited view
It is a shame that Eva has to make a cry for help in this way and her family all despise her for being so selfish and taking to her bed. In fact those who care for her most are the odd job man and the window cleaner! I found the visiting district nurse so funny as she searched for bed sores and asks Eva what cream she is using. Chanel is the answer but it does the job! When Eva sets up her limited environment, the only entertainment despite the odd visitor is the view from the window and even this is taken away from her when she becomes an international phenomena and has curious people camping on the lawn.
I don't suppose this book will be to everyone's taste but if you appreciate the former works from this author you will probably take to this book. I will be keeping my copy as I will probably read it again in a few years' time.