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‘A painful funny humane novel: beautifully written, addictively readable and so confident’ The Times
Discover this brilliantly comic and moving bestselling novel by the award-winning author of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time and The Porpoise.
At fifty-seven, George is settling down to a comfortable retirement, building a shed in his garden, reading historical novels, listening to a bit of light jazz. Then Katie, his tempestuous daughter, announces that she is getting remarried, to Ray.
The family is not pleased, as her brother Jamie observes, Ray has 'strangler's hands'. Katie can't decide if she loves Ray, or loves the way he cares for her son Jacob, and her mother Jean is a bit put out by the way the wedding planning gets in the way of her affair with one of her husband's former colleagues. And the tidy and pleasant life Jamie has created crumbles when he fails to invite his lover, Tony, to the dreaded nuptials.
Unnoticed in the uproar, George discovers a sinister lesion on his hip, and quietly begins to lose his mind.
If the reader were to give a voice to Haddon's protagonist, it would sound just like Keating's. George is an introverted, mild-mannered 61-year-old newly retired Brit who wants to ignore the emotional undertow of his conventional, middle-class family. Without trying to act out the characters, Keating clearly delineates each: George's wife (who is having an affair), his daughter (who is about to embark on another disastrous marriage), her fiance (whose cockney accent highlights class antagonisms) and his son (who fears bringing his male lover to the wedding). To avoid the family fracas, George focuses on his eczema-the "spot of bother" of the title-convinced that it is cancer and that he will die soon. Keating tries to establish a lighthearted tone, but Haddon's descriptions of the characters' misery, especially George's rapid descent into madness, are too graphic to be comical. Tone aside, Haddon writes well and Keating reads well, so many listeners will enjoy this contemporary British family portrait in which everyone will live relatively happily ever after-if only they can learn to communicate with one another. Simultaneous release with the Doubleday hardcover (Reviews, July 17).