Review

A Spot of Bother

by Mark Haddon



In A SPOT OF BOTHER, talented writer Mark Haddon proves that the
success of his stunning debut, THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN
THE NIGHT-TIME, was no fluke.

The characters in his latest effort are perhaps less extraordinary
than Christopher Boon, the autistic protagonist of Haddon's first
book, yet they are no less complex or compelling. Retired
playground equipment manufacturer George Hall is having a difficult
time these days. His daughter Katie is getting remarried to a man
he doesn't find quite suitable, his son Jamie is gay and George
cannot bring himself to be fully comfortable with that fact, and
his wife Jean is having an affair with one of his former
co-workers. As if that wasn't enough, George has found a spot on
his hip and is convinced he's dying of cancer (never mind that this
has been diagnosed as eczema).

As George begins to lose control of his emotions and impulses, the
lives of his loved ones are spinning out of control as well. Katie
isn't sure if she should really marry Ray. Does she love him, or is
she just looking for security? Jamie and his boyfriend have just
broken up after Jamie makes it clear that he doesn't want Tony at
Katie's wedding. Jean is swept up in a romantic affair but has to
reassess her feelings as George's mental health begins to
decline.

George has always been a solid and reliable sort of fellow with a
bit of a romantic streak that draws him toward solitude and
painting. As his depression drags him to desperate depths, he is
torn between resisting it and succumbing to it. For most of the
book, his family is unaware of the danger he's in.

Despite this depressing premise, Haddon's prose is light and often
quite funny. A SPOT OF BOTHER is written with characteristic
English wit, elegance and understatement. Writing in third person,
but from the four perspectives of George, Jean, Katie and Jamie,
Haddon deftly demonstrates the isolation and connection of each
family member. It's not just the real characters and interesting
plot that make this book so great; Haddon is a master of detail and
observation. From the tea in a "proper china mug" to the "t-shirt
with banana stains," Haddon captures the subtle tidbits of ordinary
daily life. As he has a harder and harder time coping, George also
takes comfort in observing the ordinary details. As he watches golf
he finds "something reassuring about the sensible jumpers and all
that greenery stretching into the distance." All of Haddon's
characters have flashes of insight that go unrecognized until later
events show them their meaning and value.

As we move toward Katie's on-again, off-again wedding, each family
member must confront their own circumstances and question their own
happiness. Then they have to deal with George's quickly
deteriorating mental health. Haddon has written a wonderful book.
It is instantly engaging, totally convincing and over too soon. A
SPOT OF BOTHER --- an extraordinary look at mundane dysfunction ---
is a page-tuner and a pleasure.

Reviewed by Sarah Egelman on January 23, 2011

A Spot of Bother
by Mark Haddon

  • Publication Date: August 14, 2007
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage
  • ISBN-10: 0307278867
  • ISBN-13: 9780307278869