I’ve just finished reading “The Woman Who Went to Bed for a Year” by Sue Townsend, the author of “The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole aged 13 ¾.” After a recent bout of heavy, intense reads that have left my brain in a whirlwind of thoughts, reflections and ponderings, I decided to give myself a break and read something light, funny, and not too thought provoking. It was a good decision, although there were definitely some thought provoking bits too – but at least when there is humour at the core, it doesn’t wear you out so much!
Based around the central character Eva, she decides to go to bed for a year, although she didn’t know it would be a year when she went to bed, and it happened the day her gifted teenage children went off to university. Eva is an interesting character, who hasn’t had a fulfilling life, probably because her heart was broken at a tender age and because she married a cock. That cock was Brian, an astronomer and arrogant son of a bitch, who in my opinion, has some very weird ideas about life, the role of his wife, and women in general – but Eva married him knowing this. The children – Brian Junior and Brianna are gifted kids – definitely in the high functioning autistic range – and like all teenagers the world over, everything revolves around them. Then we have Eva’s mother and Eva’s Mother-in-Law, a cantankerous and judgemental old bird.
As the story develops, Eva’s personal decision to go to bed for a year firstly impacts her immediate community – because they do have to feed and keep her alive – but then the story goes national and international – lead by Twitter and then a media frenzy around the story of the “Angel” in bed. From there, it just gets crazier and crazier. I found it a really fascinating journey into “the story” from the perspective of multiple characters, as they interpret what it actually means to them, and how it is twisted and hyped to suit the needs of the public. It definitely resonates with the truth.
There are many fascinating characters throughout the book. ‘Polly’ attends the twins’ university, and she is so wrapped up in lies that she forgets her truth, becoming her lies. We never get to the bottom of her story because the future will be more and more lies, and the interesting part of Polly’s story is the ever increasing impact her lies have on others, all the way to China. Then there is mad and eccentric ‘Sandy,’ who is rich because she inherited her parent’s wealth, but she only inhabits the kitchen of the inherited mansion, bedding down there every night in a sleeping bag, and spending her days scanning the Internet for potential queues to join – like the overnight queue for the next iPod launch, the ticket lines for Disneyland, etc.. Queues you may ask? Well she is an English character and they do like their queues, but this is where nutty Sandy meets people of like mind and makes ‘friends.’ The idea is very quirky indeed, but it highlights the desperate measures some will go to for company, so it actually didn’t feel farfetched.
Alexander, one of the great characters in the book – a well spoken and educated Rastafarian with a complex story of his own, makes a great observation on ‘PC Hawk’. “Alexander looked down at PC Hawk’s innocent and ignorant face, and understood that nothing he could say would make any impression on this policeman. He had closed his mind at adolescence and cemented it shut at police training college. He would not be opening it again.”
Sue Townsend is obviously a very insightful lady indeed, because she manages to go inside the minds of every character in the book, positioning the story within the context of their own thoughts, experiences and beliefs. People are what they are. Some of the characters you love for who they are, and some you despise – but that’s life right? Considering she covers men and women, as well as people from all races and religions, it’s a really inspiring way to capture a story and there’s no doubt in my mind that Sue Townsend really really understands how people tick. I am constantly fascinated by the human tendency to embrace our truths as THE truth, so found this aspect of the book fascinating.
There is so much more about this book I could comment on, but the reason it captured my imagination is Sue Townsend’s insight into the complexity of relationships we build in our lives, the need to please others or not please others, how very few people follow their own path or heart, how selfish some can be – unaware of their impact on others, or conversely, how generous people can give – usually at the detriment to themselves. She represents these sides of humanity perfectly and with great humour.
I found it a really brilliant and insightful book, and if you are the sort of person who is interested in how people tick, this is definitely worth a read. Alternatively, if you just want a giggle, it will do that too.
Let me know what you think?
Yours, without the bollocks