A Spot of Bother: A Novel Hardcover – Sep 5 2006
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From Publishers Weekly
Recent retiree George Hall, convinced that his eczema is cancer, goes into a tailspin in Haddon's (Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time) laugh-out-loud slice of British domestic life. George, 61, is clearly channeling a host of other worries into the discoloration on his hip (the "spot of bother"): daughter Katie, who has a toddler, Jacob, from her disastrous first-marriage to the horrid Graham, is about to marry the equally unlikable Ray; inattentive wife Jean is having an affair—with George's former co-worker, David Symmonds; and son Jamie doesn't think George is OK with Jamie's being queer. Haddon gets into their heads wonderfully, from Jean's waffling about her affair to Katie's being overwhelmed (by Jacob, and by her impending marriage) and Jamie's takes on men (and boyfriend Tony in particular, who wants to come to the wedding). Mild-mannered George, meanwhile, despairing over his health, slinks into a depression; his major coping strategies involve hiding behind furniture on all fours and lowing like a cow. It's an odd, slight plot—something like the movie Father of the Bride crossed with Poe's "The Tell-Tale Heart" (as skin rash)—but it zips along, and Haddon subtly pulls it all together with sparkling asides and a genuine sympathy for his poor Halls. No bother at all, this comic follow-up to Haddon's blockbuster (and nicely selling book of poems) is great fun. (Sept.)
Copyright Â© Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.
“Totally brilliant. . . . Wondrously articulate. . . . A Spot of Bother serves as a fine example of why novels exist. . . . Haddon is an unmagic realist, a guy who finds enough pathos and humor in the everyday to fashion stories that transport, entertain and keep you reading past your bedtime.”–The New York Times Book Review
“A Spot of Bother is a crisp, light, effortless read, a sympathetic and sometimes very funny social comedy that, for the most part, perfectly skewers its hapless protagonists and their hopeless pretensions. . . . Like Nick Hornby, too, [Haddon] can bring to everyday life a pleasing solidity and veracity, and he can also place a character with a single, deft phrase.” —Sunday Times (UK)
“Kind in spirit and empathetic to its characters’ assorted plights.” —The New York Times
“Haddon elevates the novel with keen intuition into human behaviour, subtly instructing his readers to appreciate their lives, no matter how superficially boring they may seem.” — Calgary Herald
“Haddon provides plenty of neat turns of phrase and sharp observations.” —National Post
“A Spot of Bother meets and exceeds expectations. . . . It’s an unfair comparison, but it may help to suggest it’s a little like a British version of Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections, only one that feels much more like a dark sitcom. It’s a fresh, breezy, inviting look at family dysfunction.” — The Vancouver Sun
“Haddon’s fans can attest that this ability to see things from other people’s points of view is precisely his strength. . . . Once again, Haddon demonstrates his ability to crawl into his characters’ skins.” — The Gazette (Montreal)
“A very funny book. . . .The build-up to the climax is expertly done, and that climax is a near-masterwork of slapstick comedy. . . . He also does a great job of detailing the flotsam of ordinary lives without descending into arch, literary anthropology. Not a single character is held at a distance.” — Toronto Star
“Haddon has a gift for conveying the illogical responses people have when things don’t go according to plan.” —Winnipeg Free Press
“[A] delightfully touching tour de farce. . . . Haddon finds magic in the details and, as with Dog, makes the routine minutiae of day-to-day life appealing and often hilarious. . . . The observations are so astute, so gently funny, so touching, that you get caught up in the fate of the well-meaning, if slightly imprudent, Hall family.” — USA Today
“Haddon writes about the grisly minutiae of family life with the beady observation and ear for domestic surrealism of a younger Alan Bennett . . . he has a fascinated affection for the strangeness of suburban life, which he records with a humanity that eschews caricature and allows every character a measure of dignity amid the profoundest indignity. . . . A Spot of Bother is a painful, funny, humane novel; beautifully written, addictively readable and so confident.” — The Times
“The novel succeeds brilliantly . . . in its uncommon, unpretentious willingness to capture the intricacies of communication between children, parents and lovers, without resorting to easy cynicism, following complex everyday family dramas through to provisionally happy resolutions. Haddon is particularly skilled at showcasing the silences, misunderstandings and missed opportunities that spring from parents and children speaking at cross-purposes.” — The Globe and Mail
“Style is everything in the farce game and, happily, Haddon brings much of that to the table, with a dry yet acerbic wit. . . . A Spot of Bother, so different from Haddon’s name-making novel The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, is a bit of jolly good fun.” — New York Daily News
“A Spot of Bother is such a pleasure to read — it is funny, wry, and well-paced — that it is only later that you realize what a thoughtful novel it is. . . . Satisfying and emotionally rich.” — Powell’s Books, “Review-a-Day”
“This is a masterful novel in which Haddon has surpassed his previous achievement. He pulls off the extraordinary trick of being simultaneously riotously funny, profoundly insightful, and deeply poignant. . . . Haddon has written beautifully about the messiness of life with a poise and grit that few novelists truly possess. Fans of Curious Incident can rest assured that they won’t be disappointed.” — The Scotsman
“Haddon’s style is a reader’s bliss. He writes seamless prose. The words are melted into meaning. . . . Haddon’s gift is to make us look at ourselves when we think we’re looking away, being entertained. . . . A Spot of Bother is perfect medicine.” — The Scotsman
“Very funny and deeply painful.” — The Independent
“Nothing short of brilliant…. Haddon has filled 390 pages with sharp and witty observations about family and daily life…. A superb novel.” — The Independent
“No bother at all, this comic follow-up to Haddon’s blockbuster (and a best-selling book of poems) is great fun.” — Publishers Weekly
“The writing is fresh, funny and wise. [Haddon’s] dry, nimble style is pitch perfect, capturing the hectic anxieties of a family constantly teetering on the edge between respectability and humiliation.” — New York Observer
“Haddon persuades us to join George in not knowing who is out of touch with reality and who isn’t, and to feel the balance tilt alarmingly as the events rush by. It is an appealingly disorienting experience . . . a work of art. . . . A Spot of Bother is witty as well as funny.” TLS
“Entertaining. Haddon has all the ingredients for a classic, sappy tale of family dysfunction, but his sharp humour, ear for the absurd and refusal to pigeonhole his characters makes his story anything but predictable.” — Edmonton Journal
“If anyone can make mental illness entertaining, it’s Mark Haddon. . . . A darkly funny take on a family all to ordinary but fascinating in their emotional complexity.” — Toronto Sun
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Top Customer Reviews
On the one hand it had all the elements of a story that I would like. Great character development. Good plot. Cleanly written so that the story made for a fast read. Short chapters so again, it felt like a fast read. And likable characters, especially the main protagonist George.
So if I liked all these traits of the book then why am I on the fence as to where I stand with this novel? Well for starters the book dragged on. And on. And then on again. I mean there were parts of the book that I was reading, saying to myself "enough already. Just get on with it." And I'm afraid that I found myself saying this more often than not as I made my way through this book.
So what's the book about? In short it's about a family and its dysfunctions. You have George who thinks everything is wrong with him and his health. Then there's his wife who is having an affair. Don't forget the son Jamie who is gay. And of course the daughter Katie who is getting married to a guy the family doesn't like. All of which makes for a rich tapestry of story telling.
The book is definitely not as entertaining as Haddon's first novel, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. However it was an entertaining read. If you're looking for a Corrections type novel, then by all means give this novel a read.
George, the father, has retired and seems content with his pressure-free life. His wife Jean is mightily distracted by some private matters and the organization of the wedding reception for their daughter Katie, who is getting married for the second time. Her parents disapprove of Ray, the future son-in-law and Katie herself is starting to have doubts. Does she want to marry Ray because she loves him or because he seems to be a very good and reliable provider for herself and her son Jacob? Meanwhile Jamie, Katie's brother, is having problems with his boyfriend Tony. His parents are aware of the relationship but an invitation to the wedding seems inappropriate given the fact that none of the other relatives/friends know about Jamie's homosexuality. Jamie himself is not sure whether he wants Tony to come to the wedding or not.
The buzz & fuzz of the wedding preparation go almost unnoticed by George, however, as he discovers a problem on his body. Almost simultaneously and by pure coincidence, an entirely different matter, of a different nature but very disturbing indeed, comes to light. Unbeknownst to all, he starts to slowly disintegrate psychologically.
Among the tragicity of some of the episodes, the author was able to combine the intricacies of the mind and soul of the Hall family, with an easy and accessible narrative. Many hilarious and funny moments dot this novel without lessening the emotional impact. Very well done.
Most recent customer reviews
I don't undertand why people have liked this book... I must be missing some funny gene or something because I did not even enjoy reading it.Published on Dec 11 2008 by Jessie Karam
George Hall is the main character in Haddon's latest book "A Spot of Bother." Thoroughly English, though assessible to those of us who aren't, it is a perfect next book to follow... Read morePublished on Sept. 25 2006 by Griffy Buc