I am a woman who likes her bed and I definitely need my eight hours a night to be able to function properly. But eight hours is pretty well enough for me – I certainly don’t want to spend 24 hours a day in bed.
Nor (although I do have a bit of a chocolate addiction) do I fancy joining the ranks of the super-obese, as Mal, the central character in David Whitehouse’s debut novel Bed does after taking to his bed one day as a child and never getting out.
But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t make a fascinating topic for a book. The descriptions of Mal’s body once he becomes morbidly obese are simultaneously disgusting and compelling, but it is the psychological aspect of the condition that is most engrossing.
Written in the voice of his younger brother, the lives of his family are consumed by Mal even before he takes to his bed.
As an eccentric child, he already gets a disproportionate amount of his parents’ attention, when one day he decides that rather than trying to live a normal adult life – getting a job, paying bills, getting married etc. – he will opt out by going to bed.
Of course, the super-obese cannot exist without a ‘feeder’ and Mal’s mother devotes herself to caring for her – and feeding - her bed-ridden son, while the father retreats into his own world and the brother can’t seem to escape.
Mal even becomes a celebrity with mountains of fan mail (he never reads) despite the fact that he does nothing and never leaves his bed.
I read an interview with David Whitehouse the other day in which he said that we can no more understand the super-obese than we can a horse and by the end of the book I was certainly no wiser as to why anyone would do it to themselves or why anyone would feed them.
But I was fascinated and could certainly empathise with the effect it has on the people who love him.
Click here to order a copy of Bed from Amazon.