Saturday, October 07, 2006

A Spot of Bother - Mark Haddon [September/06]

I can't believe I forgot to write a review of this book! Following on the success of Haddon's previous novel, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, I was very intrigued to see what his next attempt would be. Honest opinion, his first novel was good. I read it and enjoyed it, but this book was more interesting.

From Random House:

George Hall is an unobtrusive man. A little distant, perhaps, a little cautious, not quite at ease with the emotional demands of fatherhood or of manly bonhomie. “The secret of contentment, George felt, lay in ignoring many things completely.” Some things in life can’t be ignored, however: his tempestuous daughter Katie’s deeply inappropriate boyfriend Ray, for instance, or the sudden appearance of a red circular rash on his hip.

At 57, George is settling down to a comfortable retirement, building a shed in his garden and enjoying the freedom to be alone when he wants. But then he runs into a spot of bother. That red circular rash on his hip: George convinces himself it’s skin cancer. And the deeply inappropriate Ray? Katie announces he will become her second husband. The planning for these frowned-upon nuptials proves a great inconvenience to George’s wife, Jean, who is carrying on a late-life affair with her husband’s ex-colleague. The Halls do not approve of Ray, for vague reasons summed up by their son Jamie’s observation that Ray has “strangler’s hands.” Jamie himself has his own problems — his tidy and pleasant life comes apart when he fails to invite his lover, Tony, to Katie’s wedding. And Katie, a woman whose ferocious temper once led to the maiming of a carjacker, can’t decide if she loves Ray, or loves the wonderful way he has with her son Jacob.

Unnoticed in the uproar, George quietly begins to go mad. The way these damaged people fall apart — and come together — as a family is the true subject of Haddon’s hilarious and disturbing portrait of a dignified man trying to go insane politely.

A Spot of Bother is Mark Haddon’s unforgettable follow-up to the internationally beloved bestseller The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time. Once again, Haddon proves a master of a story at once hilarious, poignant, dark, and profoundly human. Here the madness — literally — of family life proves rich comic fodder for Haddon’s crackling prose and bittersweet insights into misdirected love.

I wish I had remembered to do this review before, because it has been a while since I read it, and to be honest, my opinions on it are not as fresh in my mind. I really like the cover, though. I think it is very different. I was at Costco yesterday, ask if you don't know what that is, and I was blown away by the selection. I owned most of them, because I gather Costco is connected with Random House, because most of the books there are Random House novels. This was one of them. The table is full of brightly coloured covers, and then there is this one which is relatively simplistic. I noticed this one first, it is an artsty and more original cover. There are common themes making their way through literature, and this book does not meet them.

Anyways, to the book. I enjoyed this family. I got drawn into them, and I found myself getting annoyed with them, sharing their happiness, and laughing at some of their more strange moments. It covers pretty much every one of the emotions possible, so you can quite easily feel like an emotional wreck while reading this. What surprised me, though, is that while Haddon's previous novel was a huge success, I haven't been hearing very much about this one. Maybe I am alone in thinking it was better, but that's my story and I am sticking to it. If anything, it might make your own family look more normal.


Click here for more information.

1 comment:

  1. So anxious to read this and it's great that you thought that it was even better than Incident, which I loved.


Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

I am so sorry, but I turned anonymous commenting off. I have had it from the very beginning, but that is how the spam is getting by my spam filter at the moment. If it is a big deal I will turn it back on and moderate all comments. I also changed moderation from older than 14 days to older than 7.