Monday, October 22, 2007

A Spot of Bother by Mark Haddon

Rating: 7/10

Published: 2006
Number of pages: 390
ISBN: 0224080466

Started: 15 October 2007
Finished: 18 October 2007

Summary (taken from blurb):

George Hall doesn't understand the modern obsession with talking about everything. 'The secret of contentment, George felt, lay in ignoring many things completely.' Some things in life, however, cannot be ignored. At fifty-seven, George is settling down to a comfortable retirement, building a shed in his garden, reading historical novels, listening to a bit of light jazz. Then Katie, his tempestuous daughter, announces that she is getting remarried, to Ray. Her family is not pleased - as her brother Jamie observes, Ray has 'strangler's hands'. Katie can't decide if she loves Ray, or loves the wonderful way he has with her son Jacob, and her mother Jean is a bit put out by all the planning and arguing the wedding has occasioned, which get in the way of her quite fulfilling late-life affair with one of her husband's former colleagues. And the tidy and pleasant life Jamie has created crumbles when he fails to invite his lover, Tony, to the dreaded nuptials. Unnoticed in the uproar, George discovers a sinister lesion on his hip, and quietly begins to lose his mind. The way these damaged people fall apart - and come together - as a family is the true subject of Mark Haddon's disturbing yet very funny portrait of a dignified man trying to go insane politely.

This is not usually the type of book I would go for but I quite enjoyed it, even if some parts read as something I've seen a million times on a soapie (not very original ideas). I noticed that Mark Haddon has a penchant for similes, which I found slightly irritating at one stage when he wrote two in as many sentences, but I got used to them later on (well, either I got used to them or he stopped using so many!).

I found it hard to get to know the characters properly (and I had trouble keeping all their names straight for some reason!). It's written in a slightly dry manner: rather than actual dialogue, Haddon would write a conversation as 'he said this and then she said that', which I don't think helped with my character identification.

I felt quite sorry for George and I don't understand why Ray was the least popular character through most of the book when he was clearly the nicest, most normal one of the lot! I don't think the reader is given good enough reasons why George, Jean and Jamie would dislike Ray so much, and having him throw a bin in a one-off tantrum just didn't cut it!

I enjoyed Haddon's various observations on life and overall I found it a good read. I would like to read more by Mark Haddon. Recommended.

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