The Woman Who Went to Bed for a Year by Sue Townsend – review

In a novel far removed from the Adrian Mole series, Sue Townsend looks deeply at how women are viewed in a modern Western household.  It’s not too deep though – she also pulls laughter from the pits of our stomachs and out of our stupid little mouths.

It’s something we have all wanted to do at one time in our life (or indeed several times a week) – take to our beds for the remainder of the year. For this reason Sue Townsend’s portrayal of a woman undergoing a midlife crisis is one that not just ladies of a certain age, but everyone, can empathise with.

Whilst it is fair to say that very few of us would take it to the extreme of the protagonist in this story, Eva Beaver, who dispatches her unfaithful husband Brian to live in the shed whilst her twins Brian and Brianne left for University all the while expecting her friends to dispose of her excrement in Asda carrier bags, I’m pretty sure a high percentage of us would park ourselves firmly in the ‘Yes’ camp on this one.

This is just the introduction to a piece of work that goes on to offer up a laugh on each turn of the page whilst also making an obvious, and yet subtly delivered undertone of feminist observation. Drawing on several female characters all of whom offer differing insights into the modern condition of the feminine, be it the matriarchal protagonist or the bimbo University student, a variety of differing opinions on what it is to be female are presented. It’s almost like at the end of an episode of Friends you are left asking yourself ‘which one am I?’ (I am clearly Brianne, for anyone wanting to know. Because boys are ikky, and I’m much better than everyone else around me).

When Eva takes to her bed Brian, her dull, adulterous husbands’ only real concerns are where his next meal is coming from and how his clothes have stopped miraculously becoming straighter than when they come out of the magic white box in the kitchen. He is a stereotypically clueless man, a perpetual toddler slamming around in a strop until another female steps in to care for him.

Meanwhile, Eva’s twins, Brian Junior and Brianne meet Poppy, who uses… well, her tits to seduce Ho, a Korean student, and takes all of his money after duping him with tears and tales of a horrific accident that has hospitalised her parents. She is an all-encompassing embodiment of all I remember that was bad about University. Cracking tits, used as a weapon to cut any man’s libido off right at its base. Nonetheless she does bluntly illustrate Townsend’s opinion of a section of today’s youth, and quite an accurate opinion this is.

Aside from these recurring insights into femininity in today’s society, and perhaps inmany places specifically because of them, this book will have you laughing out loud on the bus and in one instance spilling your flask of tea right into your crotch. At least if your experience is anything similar to mine, that is.


Post a Comment