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Saturday, September 23, 2006

Book Review: A Spot of Bother by Mark Haddon

Everyone goes through a spot of bother at some point in life. Some of us go through a spot of bother daily—minor things that niggle away at our brain, things that make us doubt what we know or believe to be right. The four main characters in A Spot of Bother go through this hourly.

There’s George. Father of the family. Presumed (by himself only) to be dying of cancer. The doctor says it’s eczema.

There’s Jean. Mother of the family. Been having an affair for several years without complication. Now that George is retired (and fearing he is dying of cancer), he follows her around like a puppy. The foreign attention makes Jean paranoid that George has discovered her affair.

There’s Katie. Daughter. About to be married (for the second time). The family is “chuffed” that her choice of groom is Ray. Ray is dependable, great with her son Jacob, has money and a house they live in for free, but he’s not really their type—class wise, intelligence wise, they can’t really put their finger on it. Katie is also torn about why she’s marrying Ray. Is it to piss off her mother?

There’s Jamie. Gay as a three dollar bill—when he’s with his friends and with Katie—but straight-laced and rather private with his parents and their neighbours. Coming to Katy’s wedding with his boyfriend Tony will disturb the neighbours, cause his mother to hug Tony like a long-lost son (she knows Jamie is gay but doesn’t talk about it) and cause his father (who also knows Jamie’ is gay) to pat Tony on the back and treat him like an associate or sportsmate of Jamie’s.

A Spot of Bother indeed.

George goes crazy.
Jean calls it off with David.
Katie cancels the wedding.
Ray throws a dustbin.
Tony breaks up with Jamie.
Then I can’t tell you what happens because it will ruin the ending for you.

A Spot of Bother is as funny as his first book The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.

There’s a website for the book aspotofbotherbooks.com, which is also tres drole.

The opening image is an invitation to Katie and Ray’s wedding:

George and Jean Hall
Invite you to the (second) wedding of their (tempestuous, stubborn and ferociously tempered) daughter

Katie
who plans to wed

Ray
(an inappropriate hulk with “strangler hands”) on

September 5, 2006

By which time ... George, who is losing his mind as politely as he can, and Jean, who is shagging George’s ex-colleague, and Jamie, their gay son who cannot commit to his lover by inviting him to the wedding, and Katie who fears she really doesn’t love Ray ... pray that their family madness proves to be nothing more than

a spot of bother.

Listen to an audio excerpt.

I enjoyed Mark Haddon’s A Spot of Bother very much, although I’m secretly pleased not to hear any more about Katie. She was a bad influence on my character. I shall try to be more like calm, dependable Ray from now on.

 

 

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