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Mark Haddon – A Spot of Bother

January 5, 2008

2. A Spot of Bother by Mark Haddon (2006)

Read by Simon Vance
Length: 11h 41m (354 pages)

Genre: Fiction

Started: 20 December 2007
Finished: 05 January 2008

Summary: Recent retiree George Hall is not having a good week. His daughter Katie has announced that she’s getting married to a man George thinks is not good enough for her, his son Jamie will be bringing his boyfriend to the wedding, and to top it all off, he’s discovered a lesion on his hip that he’s convinced is cancerous. As George slips further into depression and anxiety, his family begins to go to pieces around him, and there seems to be little chance of stopping the comedy of errors and returning to normal for long enough to hold a wedding – if they can even begin to figure out what normal is.

Review: This book reminded me quite a lot of Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections, if not so much in style, then definitely in tone, dry wit, and subject matter – a “typical” family in crisis while each of the members are undergoing crises of their own. The Corrections was fancier with the language, while this book was more straightforward, and had a less convoluted plot structure. Both manage to portray real people, with real problems, and this book in particular does an excellent job of making its characters both realistic and sympathetic. This is not to say that any of them (except Ray, Katie’s fiancée) are particularly nice or wonderful people – because real people have flaws and foibles and short tempers and make stupid decisions. This book also takes a potentially very depressing subject matter – depression, anxiety, fear of dying – and makes it subtly funny throughout, without trivializing it and while still treating its characters with compassion. There was only one scene that I felt lost its tone – George attempting self-surgery was I think supposed to be played as a bit of a farce, but for me wound up over the line into disturbing, disgusting, and genuinely hard to listen to, although I’ve got a pretty weak stomach for that sort of thing. Overall, though, I enjoyed this book – it does a good job of making your own daily crises seem like small potatoes compared to those of the Hill family. 4 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: Nothing particularly ground-breaking, and I wouldn’t necessarily pick it up just because you like The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, but it’s a solid black comedy and enjoyable and easy to read.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Maggie permalink
    January 5, 2008 11:18 pm

    A lively review. I enjoyed reading your comments, nice balance between judgment and your personal reaction.


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