On the morning her twins leave home for university, Eva Beaver throws tomato soup over a chair she spent years embroidering and gets into bed…
She no longer wants to clean up after her obnoxious family, host disappointing dinner parties or keep up appearances. As she climbs into bed she quickly decides, to the dismay and confusion of her loved ones, that she is going to stay there for an entire year.
Initially her family and nosey neighbours are convinced that she is mad, or suffering from some kind of breakdown, but Eva assures them she is perfectly well. With the help of a friendly window cleaner and an obliging handy man, Eva starts removing the evidence of her old life. Along with her unworn shoes and stained party dresses go the years she spent living a half life, playing the role of dutiful wife and caring for the children who she’s never really understood.
First she gives away her clothes, then her bedroom furniture and then Eva paints her entire room blindingly white, until all that remains of before is her beloved Chanel makeup and, of course, the bed. In the year that follows, her children Brian Junior and Brianne turn from quiet teenagers into threatening and socially inept mathematical masterminds; her disillusioned husband moves in with his mistress in a glorified shed at the bottom of the garden and Eva begins a strange courtship with Alex the banker boy turned handyman she hired to rid her of all her material possessions.
As her eccentric family carries on living around her and Eva battles with her inner turmoil, a host of lost souls gather outside the Beaver household, convinced that she is an angel. Through all the absurdity and chaos Eva’s stationary existence creates, you can’t help but wonder: is she mad? Or is Eva actually the sanest of them all?
Although our heroine literally never leaves her bed, Sue Townsend’s novel is far from static. Eva’s refusal to move triggers action and animation from those around her. From a horrifically scarred war hero and a suicidal cab driver, to a hard edged nurse and the promiscuous pathological liar Poppy, a herd of misfits push their way into Eva’s life.
The Woman Who Went to Bed for a Year flits between being hilarious and deeply uncomfortable. Charming and aggravating in equal measure, at its heart lies a life misspent. Townsend’s novel is a perceptive and touching depiction of suburban family life in all its mundane glory.