Sunday, February 11, 2007

A Spot of Bother is a bit of fun

Books now read in ’07: 13
Title: A Spot of Bother
Author: Mark Haddon
Genre: Fiction
Date Completed: 2-11
Pages: 354

A Spot of Bother, Mark Haddon’s second book, is not the tour de force that was the author’s debut novel. That book, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, told from the perspective of a young man suffering from Asperger syndrome, a form of autism, was a smart, affecting empathetic work. A Spot of Bother is, instead, a light, breezy book about the multiple woes that beset a family leading up to a wedding. The casual tone, inter-laced with humor, suggests the style of another Brit – Nick Hornby.

A Spot of Bother is the story of George Hall; his wife, Jean; son, Jamie; and daughter, Katie. Katie, who has a young son, has just announced she’s going to be married to boyfriend Ray, who no one in the Hall family believes is right for Katie. Katie is struggling to understand whether she truly loves Ray or merely desires the financial comfort he offers. Jamie, a homosexual, is despondent because his lover, Nick, has fled to Crete because Jamie won’t invite him to the wedding. Jean is having an affair, almost literally under George’s nose. And George is suffering from a self-described “spot of bother,” a series of panic attacks that spiral into depression fueled by whiskey, Valium and wine. Driving George’s panic is the knowledge he’s going to die; a rather reasonable fear prompted, in part, by his certainty that a scabby spot on his thigh isn’t eczema, but cancer.

It all sounds quite grim, but it manages not to be. Haddon’s style is to keep the tone light and the pace brisk. There’s not much insight here, but I’m not certain we care. Ultimately, Haddon serves up an enjoyable, but not terribly serious read. A Spot of Bother – after all – is only a bit of fun.

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