Whole Story £20.41
Audiobook: The Woman Who Went to Bed for a Year, By Sue Townsend (read by Caroline Quentin)
Are you sitting comfortably?
Sunday 08 April 2012
When Eva and Brian's precocious twins, Brian Junior and Brianna, depart for university, their mother starts clearing up. She finds a dirty soup spoon casually left on the arm of a chair she had spent two years embroidering. She flips, throws the remains of the tomato soup all over the chair and takes to her bed. And there she stays.
Before long, that chair and her bed are all that remain in her empty white room. Brian is outraged to be cast domestically adrift, although, as Eva soon discovers, he has been conducting a lengthy affair with a sturdy fellow astronomer named Titania Noble-Forester. (Brian is, however, no Lothario. "In the football league of lovers," muses Titania, "he is Accrington Stanley." When he takes two Viagra, she thinks one would have sufficed so she could have finished the ironing.) The terrible twins, meanwhile, hatch a plot to destroy the world, and Eva wonders whether post-natal depression can last for 17 years.
Into Eva's room, and onto the soup-chair, comes a richly comic cast. There is Eva's mother Ruby, who could be Adrian Mole's aunty; Brian's mother, who thoughtfully brings her an advanced dot-to-dot book; the bossy district nurse, whose glasses suggest "an optician sympathetic to the Nazi aesthetic" but who can reliably be comforted by confectionery; an elderly, rather charming, disfigured Spitfire pilot; and Alexander.
Alexander is a dreadlocked ex-banker who falls for Eva. He is great. "I always cut my toenails over a page torn from the London Review of Books" he remarks. "Doesn't everyone?" asks Eva. As her watchdog, he sifts through the crowd of no-hopers forming outside her door, all needing favours from this newly identified bedridden saint. Her sanctity is confirmed when an Indian couple discern Eva's face miraculously depicted in a chapatti: they varnish it, in devotional awe. It's all too much for Eva, who is nursing a sad secret, and she becomes ever more reclusive.
Caroline Quentin's reading begins a bit shoutily, but develops into a subtle and touching performance at the same time that it becomes clear Sue Townsend's remarkable gifts for storytelling and for creating hilarious characters are tempered by a warm, perceptive and affectionate humanity. Townsend's people aren't monsters, and this lovely book begins and ends with what must be her credo: that to do the best we can in this difficult life, we simply have to be kind.
film Sex scene trailer sees a shirtless Jamie Dornan turn up the heat
Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challengeTV
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Venezuela Expo Tattoo 2015: Extreme body art from 'Vampire Woman' to 109mm earlobes
- 2 Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
- 3 Ball pool for adults opens in London
- 4 Amal Clooney gives excellent response to fashion question at European Court of Human Rights
- 5 Rashida Jones speaks out against male-centric porn saying 'women should have sex and feel good about it'
Venezuela Expo Tattoo 2015: Extreme body art from 'Vampire Woman' to 109mm earlobes
Game of Thrones really doesn't want Danny Dyer - EastEnders star rejected three times
Game of Thrones season 5 trailer: The first full-length look is here
Sia apologises for 'Elastic Heart' music video that sees Shia LaBeouf wrestle 12-year-old Maddie Ziegler
25 years of Disney: How Darth Vader, Iron Man, Elsa and Pixar's geniuses helped the company conquer the world (again)
9 reasons Greece's experiment with the radical left is doomed to failure
Have we reached 'peak food'? Shortages loom as global production rates slow
Greece elections: Syriza and EU on collision course after election win for left-wing party
British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford faces execution by firing squad in Indonesia
Liberal Democrat minister defends comments suggesting immigration causes pub closures
King Abdullah dead: We can't afford not to hold Saudi Arabia's royals to account