Monday, February 4, 2019

“A Spot of Bother” by Mark Haddon

A wedding should be a joyful event. Katie Hall, a divorced woman with a young son, is marrying Ray. The Hall family had its doubts about Ray. He comes from, er, the working class (and had this novel been written 10 years later, Ray would have voted for Brexit). Truth be told, Katie has her doubts about Ray. 

For all its doubts about Ray, the rest of the Hall family has its own set of problems. Jamie, Katie’s brother, has just broken up with his boyfriend. George, the father, discovers a lesion on his hip and decides he is dying from cancer; George will go round the bend and over the top repeatedly throughout the story. Jean, the mother, is having an affair with a former work colleague of George’s. George will discover his wife’s infidelity and, in a rather British reaction, say nothing about it while his behavior becomes even more bizarre.

Mark Haddon
British novelist Mark Haddon tells the story of the Hall family in the novel A Spot of Bother, first published in 2006. The story is poignant, funny and almost comic in parts. Haddon starts with a group of characters that are difficult to like and ends with people you actually care about. The one exception is the rather unsuitable Ray, who maintains a kind of solid strength and character throughout the story (aside from throwing a rubbish bin or two when he’s angry). It’s interesting that the one character the others find rather suspect is the most likeable and sympathetic – and the one who holds the Hall family together when it looks to fracture.

Best known for his novel The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Haddon is the author of several novels, young adult novels, and story collections, including The Red House and The Pier Falls. He is also an artist. He blogs under his own name.

A Spot of Bother tells the story of how a group of people grow and change over a very short few weeks as they grope toward understanding themselves and each other.


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