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. At sixty-one, George Hall is settling down to a comfortable retirement. When his tempestuous daughter, Katie, announces that she is getting married to the deeply inappropriate Ray, the Hall family is thrown into a tizzy. Unnoticed in the uproar, George discovers a sinister lesion on his hip, and quietly begins to lose his mind. As parents and children fall apart and come together, Haddon paints a disturbing yet amusing portrait of a dignified man trying to go insane politely.
A Washington Post Best Book of the Year
Recent retiree George Hall, convinced that his eczema is cancer, goes into a tailspin in Haddon's (Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time) laugh-out-loud slice of British domestic life. George, 61, is clearly channeling a host of other worries into the discoloration on his hip (the "spot of bother"): daughter Katie, who has a toddler, Jacob, from her disastrous first-marriage to the horrid Graham, is about to marry the equally unlikable Ray; inattentive wife Jean is having an affair with George's former co-worker, David Symmonds; and son Jamie doesn't think George is OK with Jamie's being queer. Haddon gets into their heads wonderfully, from Jean's waffling about her affair to Katie's being overwhelmed (by Jacob, and by her impending marriage) and Jamie's takes on men (and boyfriend Tony in particular, who wants to come to the wedding). Mild-mannered George, meanwhile, despairing over his health, slinks into a depression; his major coping strategies involve hiding behind furniture on all fours and lowing like a cow. It's an odd, slight plot something like the movie Father of the Bride crossed with Poe's "The Tell-Tale Heart" (as skin rash) but it zips along, and Haddon subtly pulls it all together with sparkling asides and a genuine sympathy for his poor Halls. No bother at all, this comic follow-up to Haddon's blockbuster (and nicely selling book of poems) is great fun.
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More than just a spot
Darkly humorous, this is a cleverly written, multi-generational family story told from the various members' perspectives. None of them really see nor hear one another, and their silo'd lives start to fall apart. They need one another to become whole again. Mr Haddon is a terrific, contemporary British novelist with an amazing ability to convey empathy for the most challenging characters. A Spot of Bother recalls wacky comedies such as A Death at a Funeral, emotionally charged family dysfunction as in About A Boy, and classic stiff-upper-lip forbearance (as in any Masterpiece theatre series).
Fun to read if you've got nothing else to do. And just this book on your hands. I had to read it because I was analysing insanity as part of my PhD degree. It is very contrived, and sometimes it gets really boring. Not original at all, like his prized Curious Incident of the Dog. It seems more like a description of one of the stupidest American comedies. But you know, each to their own.