Thursday, 14 July 2011

What we’re reading… Bed by David Whitehouse

Here at Book Festival HQ we’re lucky enough to have every book in the programme at our disposal. Over the next few weeks we’ll be bringing you some reviews of what us Book Festival folk have been reading. Today it’s Bed by David Whitehouse...

Have you ever wondered what would happen if you went to bed, never to get up again?

That’s what Mal did. And David Whitehouse’s extraordinary story tells the tale of what happened to him, and to his long-suffering parents, his loyal brother and his neglected girlfriend.

Mal was no ordinary child. He was a dreamer. A non-conformist with a penchant for taking his clothes off at inappropriate moments.

When the harsh realities of the grown-up world failed to meet his expectations of how life should be, Mal decided to do something drastic, something extraordinary. And so, on his twenty-fifth birthday, he went to bed, forever.

What ensues is a life story told in graphic yet surprisingly un-shocking detail about what happens when a man takes to his bed for decades with food as his only comfort. Whitehouse's style is refreshingly straightforward. His observations about the everyday things with which we are familiar makes us see them in a new light. Whilst his matter-of-fact descriptions make the extraordinary aspects of the story seem mundane: the realities of what happens to the human form when over-fed and starved of movement; the basic practicalities of housing an ever-expanding body; the complex relationships that enable and perpetuate the situation by killing with kindness. These are all territories that Whitehouse explores with his sparse, honest wit, providing a vivid account of what life is like when affected by extreme, ever-expanding, all-consuming obesity.

Tender, touching and funny, Bed is ultimately a story of love in its many forms: the accepting love between brothers; the understated love of a father for his children; the unconditional, yet stifling love of a mother for her favourite son; the twisted, adoring love of strangers for a local celebrity/freak-show; and the bitter-sweet, all-consuming, unrequited love and its slow transformation into something tangible.