Every so often the Gods align and the universe convenes to make it possible for me to read in one glorious, champagne truffle sitting, a
To know me is to understand that if there has been even the merest flutter of snow, I will almost certainly be camping indoors, refusing to leave the house and indulging a chesty cough with buttercup syrup and a bottle of Chateauneuf-du-Pape. So with two foot of the stuff baricading the front door, I curled up on the couch and took said
Sue Townsend’s latest
Peopled by caricatures and telling a tale so preposterous I wasn’t, at first, sure I was going to be able to make it through what ultimately ends up as a description of one woman’s descent into the gentlest of madness. It is after all written by she who brought us Adrian Mole and there is no escaping Townsend’s black comedy take on life in modern day suburbia, but the central theme is so enthralling and some of the characters so sympathetic (special mention here to Alexander, the dread-locked painter who is kindness itself) that one cannot help but be drawn into Eva’s story.
Imagine then if you will being Mother to twins who verging on autistic mathematical genius need no other human input than each other. Imagine being married to an astronomer whose attentions are permanently diverted by the stars in the night sky and the sexual overtures of the colleague he has been conducting an affair with more than eight years. Imagine spending many a year embroidering a chair so beautiful you cannot help but want to show it off to your guests, only to find that somebody has abandoned a soup spoon on it’s silk damask frame. This then is the catalyst for Eva’s demise. For a moment she wonders who would do such a thing and which in her battery of of stain removing chemicals will cure it and then she chucks an entire saucepan full of tomato soup at the chair and takes to her bed for a year.
We have all been there haven’t we? We have all felt momentarily disappointed by life and those who are supposed to love us and just as we sympathized when Delia Grinstead stood up and started the long walk out of her life in Ladder of Years, so too do we recognize the urge to take to our beds, and thus the concept of taking the odd
Be warned: much of this
Eva rejects almost everything in her life: instructing all the furniture be removed from her room and having the entire space painted white and it is upon this cloud that she floats, while crowds of the lonely, the eccentric and the mad gather at her window, paying homage to she would not get up. She is for a while a legend in her own lifetime, while those who have to remember to feed her, scratch their heads and fall apart and pick themselves up again and treat her always with tenderness and bewilderment. For this is a
In the end Townsend gathers up the threads of her story and presents them to us like so many knots she cannot untangle. There are no answers. People are ridiculous. None of us know what we are doing and we all fall in love with the wrong people for the wrong reasons. And fail to see it when it is front of our eyes. And yes, life is pretty pointless. And when we stop, nothing and everything falls apart and life goes on and above all else people are kind.
So terribly, terribly kind.