x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

David Whitehouse: Bed

A clever story about personal loss, failing and unfulfilled promise centering on a 25-year-old's decision to embrace sloth by staying between the sheets for the next 20 years.

On his 25th birthday, Malcolm Ede decides to stay in bed. And there he remains for 20 years. Although it seems like a dead-end hook for a novel, David Whitehouse weaves a clever story from the lives of those surrounding Malcolm, from his unnamed younger brother - the narrator - to his parents, to the woman who has fallen so hopelessly in love with him that she camps in the family's front yard.

All are trapped in the gravity well of Malcolm's considerable girth. In many ways, it is a tragedy. Nearly all the threads of this story involve personal loss, failing and unfulfilled promise. But Whitehouse's prose can provoke a few smiles, too, as he illustrates the routines of everyday life amid such bizarre circumstances.

In fact, this might be the book's biggest failing: it doesn't go anywhere fast, taking dozens of pages to describe an ordinary event or conversation that deserves only a few.

But the interactions of an otherwise unremarkable family, all of whose trajectories are irrevocably altered by the enormity of one central character's decision to embrace sloth, impel the reader onward.