The Woman Who Was Used Up

I don’t know if you’ve ever read Edgar Allen Poe’s story ‘The Man Who was Used Up’.  It’s a great surreal tale of a man who was all body parts and when he took off his false leg and false arm and took out his false eye and everything else, there was nothing left but a voice.  It’s well-told and very spooky, and you can read it here via the excellent Project Gutenberg:

I’m guessing Sue Townsend’s ‘The Woman Who Went to Bed for a Year’ is a sort of modern version of that.  Eva Beaver (that name is only the start of her troubles) wants to sit down one day when she’s tired, and she notices that on her embroidered chair, the chair that took months to complete, there is a soup stain.  Eva is the mother of high-functioning, autistic twins and the wife of the most self-centred man in the Western Hemisphere who apparently can’t even use a ladle.  Unable to take any more, she hurls soup at her chair (henceforward known as the soup chair) and heaves herself up to bed, where she stays for a year.

This is an utterly hilarious book; a tour de force of humorous characterisation in which the twins go to university where they cannot function socially and eventually get arrested for hacking into government computers, and Eva becomes known as a saint who can solve people’s problems without getting out of bed.  I really enjoyed it – except that it has the same problem all Sue Townsend’s books have, for me – which is a lack of resolution.  At the end of the year when Eva is forced to get out of bed and get on with life once more, nothing has changed from the beginning of the year.  No-one seems to learn anything or make any progress or change in any way.  I know, I know – it’s a comedy and I’m taking it too seriously; but I so wanted her to have some kind of epiphany through all her experience.  Instead she just gets out of bed and, we assume, life carries on as before – except that her children are both in prison and now she knows her husband is having an affair with his co-worker Titania (‘Tit’).

Still, I recommend this for the sheer genius of its comedy.

Kirk out

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