Thursday, 22 May 2014

Reading In Bed

townsend- the woman who went to bedI picked this up for 50p last week at the Parish Church Booksale. Sue T died last month, and was a much loved Leicestershire lass. So I thought I ought to read her last book – and a train trip to London and back seemed a good excuse.

You can see a video clip of Sue talking about the book here [I tried to embed it in the blog but I can’t – sorry]

I’m not sure what I thought of the book – I read Adrian Mole when the girls were tiny, and laughed a lot [I had no idea I would end up living in Leicestershire back then] but somehow I never moved on to the later Mole Tomes. This one is also set in our fair city, and I recognised many of the places which are mentioned [the crisp factory, the two universities, the Space Centre, the psychiatric unit…]

The plot – Eva Beaver’s twin children [bro and sis – named Brian Junior and Brianne] are very gifted children, and go off to Leeds University. Dad Brian [Senior] takes them – and in his absence, Eva just…doesn’t… get… up. He gets back and finds her in bed, and there she stays for a whole year. Early on she discovers her astronomer husband has a mistress [for eight years she had imagined he went to his garden shed at night to watch the stars through his telescope] So he is not allowed back into the bed with her. Ever. But he nevertheless stays to look after her.SueTownsend_banner_image

She has plenty of visitors, and often sits on the end of the bed and surveys the street outside. She does allow herself to make a ‘pathway’ of sheets from the bed to the ensuite so she can get to the loo, and the washbasin, without ‘leaving the bed’ but mostly she stays in bed.

Perhaps it was the idea behind the book that I couldn’t really cope with. I have the odd day when the idea of staying in bed reading or listening to the radio seems appealing. But usually that is when I am ill with a cold, or post-op or something – and when I do stay in bed I fall asleep, and drop the book, and the radio plays quietly to itself. I mean,

  • I can’t sew in bed [the machine is too heavy to balance on my knees, and pins and needles are lethal in the folds of the duvet]
  • If I knit in bed, the wool rolls away and tangles.
  • Eating in bed usually involves a complete change of bedlinen immediately afterwards due to toast crumbs and other spillage
  • After a while I look at the clock and feel I am wasting time, and I have to get up and get on with things

… No I could never do this. But Eva Beaver’s story is a poignant, bittersweet tale of an unfulfilled woman, and a family who didn’t really appreciate her – maybe in her position, I too would burrow under the bedclothes.

Parts of the book were hilariously funny, but I felt that other parts didn’t properly hang together. I read all but the last 2 chapters on my train journeys, then finished it off last thing at night. But I had to re-read those two chapters again yesterday because when I woke up I just could not remember the ending! I felt as though it finished in a very unsatisfactory way. Perhaps that’s just me- I like all the ends tied up neatly. But if you liked AM and his diary, give it a go.

I admire Sue Townsend for the way she turned her life around, and used her talents, and coped with genuine poverty in her youth, and serious health issues in later life – and she was not just a gifted writer, she was a really nice person [or so my local friends who actually knew her have told me] I think I shall give the book ***


  1. I wanted to read thus book at some point so I'll wait till I also find it in a charity shop (I like the fun of the hunt. I do it with Alexander McCall Smith and Georgette Heyer as well x

  2. People kept telling me this book was hilarious so I tried it but found it downright depressing. I couldn't see the funny - so I must be very odd!
    Like you I enjoyed the first Adrian Mole and a few the series.

  3. It's rather an enticing idea!

  4. very interesting concept. i am like you tho, i once went to bed to "stay" but got bored after a few hours and got up.

  5. Just found this in a charity shop. Looking forward to reading it.


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