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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Perhaps my favourite...
I am shocked that this wonderful and deeply thoughtful book, "The Woman Who Went To Bed For A Year" is averagely rated three stars only. It's Sue Townsend's last novel, which I started to read last week abroad, unaware of the author's death, only to be told by a friend, who saw me with the book, that the beloved Sue Townsend died.

I loved the Adrian Mole books,...
Published 11 months ago by Lola

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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Comedy with a nasty streak
Sue Townsend's view of life in Britain seems to have changed a great deal since the early 1980s and the publication of "The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 3/4". Throughout that book and indeed the eight volumes that the Adrian Mole series eventually became, and also in others of her books, such as "The Queen and I" and "Queen Camilla", the overriding message (in a...
Published on 23 Sept. 2012 by Steve Benner


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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Comedy with a nasty streak, 23 Sept. 2012
By 
Steve Benner "Stonegnome" (Lancaster, UK) - See all my reviews
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Sue Townsend's view of life in Britain seems to have changed a great deal since the early 1980s and the publication of "The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 3/4". Throughout that book and indeed the eight volumes that the Adrian Mole series eventually became, and also in others of her books, such as "The Queen and I" and "Queen Camilla", the overriding message (in a highly satirical sort of way) was that while the world is often a cruel place and fate fickle, most ordinary people are inherently decent and the human spirit essentially indomitable, almost always able to make the best of a bad lot. To read these books is to be both entertained and uplifted, even while conscious of the fact that life can all too frequently skim across the surface of a darker, more frightening, world.

The author's latest tale, "The Woman who Went to Bed for a Year", is an altogether more depressing affair. It starts out in very similar vein to her other books, with an essentially ordinary and entirely dysfunctional middle class family of four in suburban Leicester. While husband, Brian, drives their twin teenage children to Leeds to begin a life at University, tired housewife, Eva, takes herself off to bed; where she subsequently decides to stay indefinitely, for no better reason than the sheer fact that she can. This simple act of defiance against generally established norms of behaviour triggers a catalogue of increasingly bizarre events, some of which offer the potential for hilarity but over all of which hangs a very large cloud of serious depression, souring the humour and leaving an unpleasant and unsettling atmosphere.

With very few exceptions, every character in this book possesses not a single redeeming quality. However much sympathy one may initially have for Eva -- a down-trodden housewife who has endured years of ill-treatment from an obnoxious, conceited, bigoted and cheating husband, whilst struggling to raise two academically gifted but clearly (but seemingly undiagnosed) autistic children, under the caustically critical gaze of both mother and mother-in-law -- this all but evaporates as her initial gesture of rebellion and defiance spirals down into wallowing self-pity and depression very much of her own making.

It is probably no accident that the only two likeable (or even remotely human) characters in the book are Rastafarian 'white van man', Alexander -- whom husband Brian first engages to help with some odd jobs but who quickly becomes Eva's greatest ally and helper -- and an elderly reclusive neighbour, Stanley, whose face is horribly disfigured after being all but burned alive in his Spitfire during the Battle of Britain. Just about everyone else in the book displays such uncaring and self-serving natures as to suggest that the underlying message of this tale is that such altruism or kindness as appears to exist in the world arises as nothing more than an accidental side effect of the pursuit of indulgent self-interest that is merely misunderstood and misinterpreted by those in search of succour and solace from those around them and who will gladly interpret any behaviour as providing such. As a consequence, all of the comedy in this book is streaked through with such invidious strands of nastiness that it is hard to like very much of it, no matter how sharply observed some aspects of the story may be. In addition, some of the author's attempts at humour seem uncharacteristically forced -- such as the silliness in her choice of characters' names -- while from the middle onwards, the flow of the story stumbles and stutters, as though unsure of where it is really heading or, indeed, why.

All in all, I found this is a very disappointing outing for Sue Townsend, presenting an altogether bleak and depressing picture of the modern world and the people in it. I do hope it is not indicative of the author heading towards a cynical and disillusioned old age and that whatever she tackles next will be a return to her previous form. Maybe it's just time she got out of Leicester?
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46 of 50 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not one of Sue Townsend's best, 31 May 2012
By 
Sid Nuncius (London) - See all my reviews
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I like Sue Townsend's work very much but I'm afraid I didn't get on all that well with this book. It is well written, easy to read and amusing in places but I thought that it lacked some of Townsend's real wit and sharp insight.

The story is of Eva, a woman whose twin children go away to university and whose tedious, sexist, emotionally illiterate (and many other objectionable things) husband turns out to have been having an affair for years. Eva goes to bed for a year to...well...no-one is sure. Even she doesn't know. It's a sort of withdrawal from all the things she hates about the world and a `finding herself' experience. Townsend then uses this to satirise and rant against what she dislikes about the world. There's a monstrous, self-obsessed, manipulative teenager, sexism and racism, some well-directed barbs like "[my children] live in a very small world called the internet where cynicism is the norm and cruelty has taken the place of humour," and so on. There's even a sort of Life Of Brian episode.

It's all quite amusing and the style carries you along nicely, but it didn't seem to me to have much cohesion nor much of the bite, insight and shrewd observation which have made many of Sue Townsend's books so good. It just rather peters out and although I think Eva's eventual realisation is of a profound and important truth I couldn't really see how the realisation stemmed from what had happened. (I also think that Henry James's list of the three important things in human life says it more powerfully and in a single sentence than this book does.)

This book is an easy, occasionally amusing read. I didn't actively dislike it but I'm afraid I didn't think it added up to much.
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105 of 115 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Sparkles, fizzes and then splutters out, 13 Mar. 2012
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Sue Townsend had a great idea. Invent a woman who spends a year in bed! Eva Beaver is not ill, physically or mentally. She decides to go to bed to think.

With your main character in bed, you need an array of supporting characters to give some interest. I can imagine Townsend plotting these characters thinking they would be dynamite. Dr Brian Beaver (great name!), a dull astronomer who's constantly confused for an astrologer. His mistress, Titania (great name!). The weary and working class mother and mother-in-law, Ruby and Yvonne. The Beavers' autistic twin children. Poppy, the nymphomaniac who pretends to befriend the twins at university and wreaks havoc in the lives of hapless men. And finally Alexander, the dread locked would-be artist who falls in love with Eva. He and a facially scarred veteran from the war, Stuart, are the two token "nice" men, counter balancing Brian Junior and Senior.

The problem is that after a promising start, full of current social references and pithy pathos, Townsend runs into the problem of what to do with a bedridden woman.

There are a couple of references to Cold Comfort Farm and I believe Townsend thought she was creating something in this genre. But Eva Beaver is no Flora Poste. She languishes in bed, demanding food, and becomes an unlikely seer and guide with queues of distressed people wanting to see her.

So many of the characters are deeply unpleasant. Nothing new there: literature is full of characters like this. But there's nothing compelling about Beaver and his son. Even learning that Poppy had had a tragic past didn't make me feel sympathy for her. I just turned the pages when she appeared.

Townsend attempts to shock with careless and frequent mentions in schoolgirl language of the professor's affair with Titania, who turns up at night to sleep with him in his shed.

As for Eva, she is supposed to be in bed thinking, but what does she think about? We gain very little insight into what has driven her to her bed. She doesn't seem particularly bothered about her husband's affair. As we get to the closing pages, Townsend has the Herculean challenge of raising Eva from her bed and giving us insight into what sent her there and why it's now time to get up. But I was still none the wiser. There was a passing reference to the sort of tragedy and misfortune that every woman has to deal with at some point in her life. Is Townsend attempting to use Eva as an allegory for all womankind: put upon, heroic, passive? I suspect she was trying to find a higher purpose for Eva but to me it didn't work. Quite a few good chuckles though.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Distinctly average, 1 July 2012
By 
FLB (England) - See all my reviews
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Being an Adrian Mole lover I was really looking forward to this book, but I just didn't get it! My favourite part was when Eva instructed her dull sex mad husband Brian how to 'do' Christmas.....that part was really amusing.

I found the characters dull to be honest...all of them, Poppy was annoying, Brian Jnr and Brianne were lacklustre, Yvonne and Ruby were nothing like a normal mother/mother in law and Brian was the only one who amused me to be honest.....and he was quite amusing.

I just don't understand why Eva went to bed.....she didn't seem to think about much during her year, she was irritatingly needy and the white path thing just seemed ridiculous.

Very sad to say that I felt like I had wasted my day reading this and even speed reading through the last 100 pages to get to the end didn't get it over with quickly enough.

Vaguely amusing in parts, but would not encourage anyone else to read it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Perhaps my favourite..., 15 April 2014
By 
Lola (London) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
I am shocked that this wonderful and deeply thoughtful book, "The Woman Who Went To Bed For A Year" is averagely rated three stars only. It's Sue Townsend's last novel, which I started to read last week abroad, unaware of the author's death, only to be told by a friend, who saw me with the book, that the beloved Sue Townsend died.

I loved the Adrian Mole books, they accompanied me throughout my teen years and I re-read them often. "The Woman Who Went To Bed For A Year" is a dark read, compared to Townsend's lighthearted and hugely entertaining books on Mole's sorrows. It is about a middle-aged librarian Eva, who, when her children leave home to pursue their studies, gets in her bed and stays there (approximately for a year), without any explanation. She has her bedroom painted white, decides to get rid of all her earthly moveable assets (with an exception of her collection of Chanel personal care items). It is a new (and much awaited) start of Eva. Until it all goes further, with Eva demanding for her windows and door to be boarded, when she cannot be bothered to wash herself any more, when the sadness, unfairness and tragedy of the world feels too much for her (and then there is a selfish patronising husband, his mistress of eight years, the children, lacking any emotional connection with their parents and generally socially inept, the set of aging mother and mother-in-law). There is an array of characters, there is a lot of satire and drama, and I just could not put the book down.

"The Woman Who Went To Bed For A Year" is a comical, witty and insightful. It's a page turner, yet full of wisdom, which each chapter giving you food for thought.

On a side note, I am in awe of Sue Townsend, who had to use wheelchair from the age of 30, who was registered blind for more than a decade and who still managed to write such fantastic books. I grieve her death.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Bed Peace?, 12 May 2012
By 
SilentSinger (London) - See all my reviews
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I love Sue Townsend's writing, which always manages to combine humour, pathos and social comment in a witty and amusing way. Townsend's latest novel is the story of Eva Beaver, the titular 'woman', a 50-year-old Leicester resident, wife of Astronomer Dr Brian and mother to genius autistic twins, Brian Jnr and Brianna who decides one September that she cannot take any more and seeks refuge in her bedroom as her husband drives her children towards their new life as Leeds University undergraduates. There's a huge cast of supporting characters - Alexander Tate, a former banker/Rastafarian single father who becomes infatuated with Eva, Ruby Brown-Bird - Eva's mother, Yvonne Beaver - her mother-in-law and Titiana Noble-Forrester, Brian's mistress plus the twins' manipulative friend, the quixotic Poppy. As time passes, Eva becomes famous via word-of-mouth accounts and the internet, morphing into a modern-day angel, confessor and wise-woman. This is a state of affairs that doesn't sit well on her shoulders as she contemplates life in her white bedroom.

I did enjoy this book as a comment on the unrealistic expectations surrounding most modern women, it was laugh-out-loud funny in places and a fairly compelling read. I think Townsend could have omitted the silly names, they got a bit annoying at times and were fairly pointless in my opinion. I was impressed by the way that the various characters were interlinked - some were downright unlikeable but they still managed to retain an iota of vulnerability. I did find that the ending seemed a little rushed and after ploughing through 436 pages of prose, it was a little abrupt.

In conclusion: a well-written novel, packed full of Townsend's unique blend of caustic humour and socialist leanings - a bit like the Adrian Mole books were really. I enjoyed it and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys a novel with bite and zest.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars What a Disappointment!, 11 May 2012
By 
Richard M. Seel (Norfolk UK) - See all my reviews
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Knowing Sue Townsend's reputation, I was looking forward to reading her latest book but, alas, it did not come up to my expectations.

It's highly unlikely that a woman would decide to go to bed for a year when her twin children leave for Leeds University but it could be a good basis for an amusing story line. Eva takes to her bed in an effort to find herself - why did she bother! The twins are super bright but unable to make relationships with anyone but themselves, her husband has been having an affair with a colleague for many years and he virtually lives in his sheds in the garden whilst gazing thro' his telescopes and then there are her mother and mother-in-law struggling to cope with this dysfunctional family (but of course they themselves are part of it).

Alexander and his two small children become enmeshed in the tale - Alexander is a middle aged painter who also runs a white van removal business and falls in love with Eva. And then how is Eva going to be looked after if she refuses to get out of bed? And how is she going to go to the loo if she wont get out of bed - the white sheet becomes a pathway. Do I need to go on any further? I think not...!

I did however enjoy Sue Townsend's comment that `books are like an anaesthetic' and she remembers nothing about the twin's birth apart from the book she was reading. And again when her husband asks if she was lonely when he was at work, she replies `I was lonelier when you came home and we were sitting next to each other on the sofa;. But there were few gems to remember.

Must do better next time please Sue Townsend.

Review by Shirleyanne Seel.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Depressing, 18 Feb. 2013
I wanted a funny book to read on the plane and based on Adrian Mole and the blurbs on the back, I unfortunately chose this one. Incredibly depressing, filled with unlikeable characters, unlikely situations and absolutely nothing uplifting in any way. Very disappointing.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Darker than other Townsend books but better for it, 23 Nov. 2012
Really enjoyed this, and I think it's one of her better ones (although admittedly I've only read the Adrian Mole books). It's darker and has more depth than the Mole books and is more elegantly written in my view. It doesn't have the slightly forced flippancy that can get irritating in the Mole books.

It's very, very funny, and it's also quite sad. Other reviewers have said that the reason Eva (the 'woman' in the title) is in bed is not fully explained. But I like that! I hate to be patronised by writers who spell things out and don't give the reader any credit for working things out for themselves.

In any case I think the author is making a more general point about women who become slaves to their families, and Eva makes a sort of protest to this - whether the events in the book are fully believable or not isn't the point. And I loved her cast of characters - crazy though they all were.

I found myself completely hooked as the book went on, reading long into the night. The only reason I haven't given this 5 stars is that the book ends rather abruptly, so there is a bit of a sense of the author running out of steam (or time!).
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Dark and disfunctional, 16 Aug. 2012
By 
Mrs. K. A. P. Wright - See all my reviews
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Do not read this book if you are needing to be cheered up. Do not expect a book like Adrian Mole or The Queen and I. In fact I found the first seventy-five pages profoundly depressing and it doesn't improve much after that.

Eva is married to Brian an astronomer and mathematician. She has just seen her seventeen year old twins, Brian Jr and Brianne, mathematical geniuses, off to university. She has gone to bed, fully clothed, not because she has 'empty-nest' syndrome as everyone supposes, but because it is what she has been wanting to do ever since the twins were born.

On her second day in bed she receives a telephone call which tells her that her husband has been having an affair with a colleague for eight years, only delaying leaving Eva until the next mile stone of the twins' development has passed. Apparently he has just delayed again. Eva remembers crying at her wedding, not from happiness but because she realises that she doesn't love Brian. She is visited by her mother and her mother-in-law, both of whom advised against the marriage, because each considered that the other's child was completely unsuitable.

In parallel we see Brianne and Brian Jr, having a difficult time at university, wanting to talk to her but unable to make contact because she has cut the phone off.

Eva decides that she must not leave her bed even to go to the lavatory, but no one wants to dispose of her waste for her. So she contrives her own compromise.

She decides to strip her bedroom (and Brian's, but that's beside the point) down to its bare bones, removing furniture and carpet and it's through doing this that she meets Alexander, the white van man . . . .

I found this book disturbing. As always, Sue Townsend produces memorable characters, misfits and grotesques all vying against the world, but the world in this book is a very uncomfortable place and Eva's thoughts provide no answers. Perhaps I have been reading it in the wrong mood, but I found it very dark with no real lift at the end.
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