After her gifted children left for the uni, Eva closed the door of her house, decided to take a nap… and didn’t leave bed for an entire year. She was confident that she wouldn’t be bored since there were so many things to think about: does God exist, was she ever happy with her husband, why are her twins strange, do elephants sweat, could the human body dispose of waste in a more cultured manner… And, oh, boy, she really didn’t have the time for boredom.
Naturally, her husband, mother, mother-in-law, and neighbors don’t understand what is wrong with her and grumble because of all the things they now have to do instead of her.
Although confined to her room, Eva finds out things that others were suppressing and hiding for years as well as things she was swallowing while lying to herself. Interestingly, she will meet more people in her room than while she was leading an active social life. The beautiful fifty-year-old librarian who can’t explain why she can’t leave her bed will attract lots of unwanted attention.
Of course, her unimaginative husband, Brian, is bewildered by Eva’s strange behavior. However, he is much more concerned about his wellbeing and the complexity of all those mundane tasks every household requires. Doctor Beaver, an astronomer ‒ not an astrologist, as he has to repeat to his uneducated mother-in-law, who strangely understands the science behind a washing machine unlike him ‒ deals with the situation as best as he can, revealing fragments of the unpleasant truth about their marriage along the way. Their autistic genius twins, Brianne and Brian Junior, try to mind their own business at the university. The children’s reaction to their mother’s condition is unexpected, to say the least.
Is Eva selfish and behaving like a spoiled brat since she expects her old mother and mother-in-law to run up and down the stairs to bring her food, change the sheets, do the washing… instead of enjoying old age in the peace of their homes? Of course she is. But she can’t help it. Eva wants to stop being a nuisance and to behave normally, yet she just can’t. And that is heartbreakingly depressing. Eva’s entire life is heartbreakingly depressing. And maybe everyone’s life is heartbreakingly depressingly.
The Woman Who Went to Bed for a Year by Sue Townsend is so hilarious that you will laugh aloud and wish to retell parts to friends who haven’t read the book. However, the crazy situations that remind me of Commedia All’italiana movies are actually the backdrop of a tragic family story, which in turn reveals just how tragic modern society can be. Despite the overwhelming sadness surrounding literally every character in this book, Townsend managed to keep it light and charming. Her ability to present such tragedies in a crazy, funny manner makes you think about this book – and about your life, hope you won’t be tempted to stay in bed! – long after closing the last page.
I think that the book should have gotten one more round of serious editing. A few chapters are muddled, the ending is rushed and the story feels slightly incomplete, but despite that, I am glad that I read it. Even with the small faults, every book that makes you think is good.
One word from the book that stays with you: Kindness
The perfect beverage to sip while reading this book: Lemon balm tea
This book’s best musical buddy: Why Does My Heart Feel so Bad by Moby