Book Title: A Spot of Bother
Author: Mark Haddon
First things first – this Haddon book is nothing like the first one – The Curious Case of a Dog in the Nighttime (which you must read if you haven’t already). I needed to get that out of the way because if you go into it thinking about that one, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment. That said, this is a decent enough read.
It tells the story of 57-year-old George Hall and his family. George is a hypochondriac. He is plagued with a spot of eczema and he decides right away that it is life threatening. Meanwhile his wife is having an affair, his daughter Katie, (who has a son from a first marriage) is set to marry a man who the entire family dislikes because he just isn’t classy enough. His son Jamie is gay but he doesn’t want to come out to his family just yet. He is in the middle of a tiff with his boyfriend because Jamie is reluctant to get him to the wedding.
Haddon has the uncanny ability of getting into the minds of people who are different. He writes about them with amazing clarity. That’s what makes his stories interesting. Because Haddon’s characters are not ‘normal’ – an autistic teen or a hypochondriac, in this case – their worldview is a difficult to comprehend and that’s what makes his books refreshing. During the course of the story one needs to pull oneself out of the narrative periodically, to try to NOT feel like the character in order to understand the character because what he is saying or thinking may not be reliable from what we consider a normal perspective.
Does that make sense?
That’s what I loved about A Spot of Bother. Also the fact that it tells the story from multiple perspectives with George’s being the main voice. The host of characters, each with their own quirks, their own stories and their own relationships give the book a sweeping family saga kind of feel. Many times through the book you re-evaluate people, change your mind about them, grow to like them or dislike them through the pages.
The narrative flags in bits but the end made up for everything. It left me with a warm feeling and a smile on my face.
Last thought: This one is meant to be read over a vacation at leisure. Don’t be in a hurry to get through it and you might enjoy it.