Sunday, November 18, 2007

A Spot of Bother by Mark Haddon

A Spot of Bother by Mark Haddon
Doubleday, 2006
Fiction; 354 pgs

Completed: 11/04/2007
Rating: * (Good)

First Sentence: It began when George was trying on a black suit in Allders the week before Bob Green’s funeral.

Reason for Reading: I enjoyed The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time and looked forward to reading another book by the same author. This is a Curled Up With a Good Book selection.

Comments: Life for the Hall family seems rather ordinary on the surface. Katie, a divorced mother, announces her plans to marry her live-in boyfriend Ray, a man her family does not quite approve of; Jamie seems to be content with the order of things for the most part, including his love life, however, he still struggles with just how little his parents may not understand his relationship; Jean is trying to find a good balance in her life now that her husband has retired, balancing her husband and her lover; and then there is George who is adjusting to the retired life and somewhat oblivious to what is going on around him. He is a relatively simple man used to working hard and meeting the needs of his family as best he can. Katie and Jamie love their parents, but prefer to keep their distance, neither feeling completely understood. Jean and George feel that they did the best they could for their children and only want them to be happy.

George’s peace of mind is shattered when he discovers a lesion on his hip, of which he is sure is cancer. He puts off going to the doctor as long as he can, but an incident over a family dinner forces him to face his fears and off to the doctor he goes. No matter what the doctor says, no matter how comforting he may be, George’s mind is set. As his obsession with death grows, he begins to feel he is losing his mind, a secret he tries to hide from his family despite their growing concern.

Author of the well known The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Mark Haddon, brings to life a rather ordinary dysfunctional family, each individual focused on their own growing dramas, be it break ups, heartaches, and misunderstandings. George is in the middle of it all, his mounting fear of death and anxiety mirroring the growing tumult around him as his family struggles to find their footing and resolve their own individual problems. A Spot of Bother seems an apt title for the novel in more ways than one.

Mark Haddon’s simple prose and straightforward style of story telling carry the reader through the novel, even in the less interesting moments. His characters may not be the most likeable in the beginning for the author does nothing to hide even the biggest of blemishes, but eventually they grow on a reader, and by the end, I found myself hoping for the best for each of them. It is not a happy tale, but one fraught with characters who are average and typical and just trying to live their lives as only they know how.

Mark Haddon takes every day life and lays it bare in the pages of his novel. A Spot of Bother does not stand out as something extraordinary, and yet its very ordinariness makes it a novel that is worth reading. Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at © Wendy Runyon, 2007.

Favorite Part: About the only character I liked from the very beginning was Ray, Katie’s fiancĂ©. He was a solid man who got a bum rap from the Hall family.

Visit the author's website for more information about the book.


  1. I picked up a copy of this book not long ago, for pretty much the same reason you did, having liked the author's previous novel. Thanks for sharing your impressions; it sounds like I'll find this new one quite appealing.

  2. I didn't care for this book very much while I was reading it, but it has stayed in my thoughts. I agree, Ray was a descent character. Oh, and poor George! You've made me reanalyze my feelings about this book - although I didn't enjoy reading it I am glad I read it. Does that make sense?!

    Loved Curious Incident.

  3. I didn't pick up this book; I guess it isn't my cup of tea. However, I enjoyed reading your review, Wendy! (Hope that makes sense, hehe.) ;)

  4. I have this in my TBR pile. It's staring at me saying "Read me! Read me!"

    Great review as always, Wendy!

  5. Florinda - I definitely preferred his first book to this one, but it was a worthwhile read.

    Booklogged - I had my moments when I wasn't thrilled to be reading it, but, by the end, I could appreciate it more. And what you said makes perfect sense. I've felt that way about books too. :-)

    Melody - Haha It does make sense. I can see why some wouldn't be drawn to this book, and that's perfectly alright. :-)

    Alice - Thank you. I hope you enjoy it!

  6. I keep hearing about The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time but I still haven't gotten around to reading it. Was it really good?

  7. I still haven't read Curious Incident yet! How bad is that? I will probably pass on this one least until I read the other!

    Nice review!

  8. Not my usual type of book, but it sounds like it's done well enough that I'd enjoy it regardless. Not that I'm likely to seek it out, of course, with the ridiculous number of books already on my wish list and in my TBR stack. Urgh... =/

  9. I really liked Curious Incident but just haven't gotten around to this one yet. It sounds different though and I think I'd like that :)

  10. I loved Curious Incident and have been thinking about reading more by Haddon. This sounds like an excellent book. Thanks for the great review.


  11. I am looking forward to reading this before the end of the year hopefully. My mum recently read it and enjoyed it although she said it dragged on a little towards the end and could have done with being 100 pages shorter.

  12. I liked how in 'Curious Incident' he made the ordinary events in the lives of the characters seem interesting, and it sounds like he accomplishes that again with this one. Great review.

  13. I'm not drawn to this book at all but I enjoyed your review! As usual.

  14. Ladytink - The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is a very good book (I think). It's well worth reading.

    Stephanie - You've read plenty of books in the meantime, so you have a valid excuse. :-)

    Heather - I know what you mean. I've come across books that I've felt that way about too. They should interesting, but I'm not busting down the bookstore door to read it. If it falls in my lap, maybe. LOL

    Iliana - It's definitely not Curious Incident. I like Haddon's writing style in this one as well though. I like his use of language.

    CJ - I hope you will like it when you read it. I'm not sure I'd classify it as excellent, but I'm sure there are those who think so. :-)

    Rhinoa - I'll be interested to read your thoughts on it when you do read it. I am glad your mom enjoyed it. :-)

    Kookie - Thank you. Yes, he seems to have a knack for turning the ordinary into a good story.

    Carrie K - Haha Thank you. I'm sure there are plenty of other books worth your time!

  15. I've been wanting to try Mark Haddon for a while. I think I'll read Curious Incident first, but this one sounds worth reading as well.

  16. I recently bought "Curious Incident" and hope I like it. Haddon sounds like an interesting author.

  17. Framed - The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is an interesting book. I really enjoyed it and hope you will too.


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