Book Review : A Spot of Bother
Mark Haddon is well-known for his novel The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, a touching but meticulously written novel, winner of numerous awards including the Whitebread Book of the Year. This review is about another book by the same author called A Spot of Bother.
It is about fifty-seven year old George who has settled down to retire with his wife Jean while his daughter Katie announces that she is getting remarried. The to-be son-in-law, Ray, is not a favorite with George, Jean and Jamie, Katie’s closeted brother. Each of the characters struggles with his or her own conscience, fighting change that threatens to shake their personal lives. Written in the etch style that characterizes Haddon’s writing, A Spot of Bother simply, spells out exactly how George suspects he has cancer and tries to cut the lesion on his hip with a pair of scissors. He describes how George is gradually losing his mind and his family unknowingly aggravates his distress. This is family drama at its most eloquent.
What I especially liked about the book is that it isn’t George’s story as much as it is the whole family’s. Their opposing personalities clash as they plan Katie’s wedding. Jamie’s fear about coming out to his family, Katie’s doubts about Ray, her to-be husband, Jean’s conscience about cheating on her husband and George’s fear of death by cancer which he keeps hidden for a painfully long time. There are instances in the book where you think the story will go on, like a toy train chugging along its tracks till Haddon uproots the tracks right underneath you. George is peacefully watching a medical documentary and suddenly “[…], someone unscrewed a panel in the side of George’s head, reached in and tore out a handful of very important wiring. He fell violently ill. [….] He was going to die.”
The book is wry, entertaining, with not a single dull moment and is very addictive. The style may seem plain to most but the transparent prose makes for a delightful and smooth read. There is subtext that isn’t at once obvious and the story trips along with dark humor. Fans of A Curious Incident will not be disappointed in A Spot of Bother.
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