Newest Review: ... health scare. His daughter ,Katie ,is marrying Ray who the family feel is not really suitable for her. As the story progresses we real... more
More of a rain cloud.
A Spot of Bother - Mark Haddon
Member Name: QueenElf
A Spot of Bother - Mark Haddon
Advantages: Very fuuny, great story, good characters.
Disadvantages: people will compare with previous book.
His wife Jean, a fairly solid, unimaginative kind of woman is secretly having an affair with George's former colleague, George doesn't yet know about it or it could just push him over the edge.
His son Jamie, is a nice young man with a boyfriend called Tony, he doesn't really want commitment so when his sister, Katie, says she is going to remarry, he is horrified. That will mean inviting Tony to the wedding and besides; he doesn't much like Ray, the working-class boyfriend.
Katie has a young son, Jacob who adores Ray and since Ray is good with him Katie may have more than one reason to marry Ray.
Just a fairly ordinary family about to get a bit more than a 'spot of bother,' than they realize. Jamie sums it up quite neatly;
As he thinks to himself 'everything seemed suspended in some kind of balance. Obviously someone would come along and f...it up, because that's what other people did?'
Little does he know how soon that will happen? With George acting very strangely, Katie in a flap of uncertainty, and Jean wondering what role she is playing in her daughter's wedding, surely something else can't rock the boat?
Mark Haddon's new novel, 'A spot of bother' has all the possibilities of a first class comedy with some pathos thrown in for good measure.
'Brilliant, very funny,' says the Sunday Telegraph.
'Unforgettable' the Daily Express (hedging it's bets for once).
'A witty and subtle family drama' says the Independent on Sunday.
I wanted to enjoy this book, even after reading some disappointing reviews, after all, he was the author of the very brilliant,' The curious incident of the dog in the night.'
After that book anything the author wrote could be a disappointment, so I read on with that in mind.
Strangely enough I started to get interested quite quickly. I thought the character of George was a brilliant ploy and although he annoyed me at times, at least his character made me react. In fact his breakdown was starting to get funny until the story takes a darker turn for George and the reader gets an insight into a very troubled mind.
Jean frankly bored me for a lot of the book. Her middle-class pretentiousness was perhaps too well studied and didn't add a lot to the story initially. I did warm to her a bit later, but I felt Haddon put her in for a stark contrast to George. I suppose that any woman whose daughter has made one bad marriage would worry about another possibly dangerous marriage, but Katie isn't a young girl.
Katie is interesting as the mixed-up bride to be. Her approaching nuptials appear to bring out the worst in her as she blithely fails to see her family unraveling, that's up until George and Ray both go walkabout and her brother Jamie loses hold on his boyfriend.
I liked the character of Ray; he seemed to me a typical 'bad-boy turns nice' for a while. I worried about his temper, would that make him an unsuitable husband and father? His working-class roots struck a common note with me, so that helped me to understand where Haddon was taking his character. But wasn't this all too contrived?
As the story moves on and the narrative gets darker, then Haddon's subtlety bursts into life and from there on the book is much more readable. That's not to say the initial story isn't good. I can't imagine any writer juggling with so many characters and not loosing the thread of it. But Haddon does write about his characters with some very good insights into modern-day families and their problems. The build-up is a very necessary part of the book and if, like me, you need to take a break occasionally then halfway through the narrative is a good place to stop for the day.
I often class a book as either plot-driven or character-driven and this is definitely one of the latter books. It makes a change for me not to concentrate too much on description of places and events. So as the book gets darker and the people in it are having their lives turned upside down I suddenly realize that I've stopped thinking about Haddon's last book and giving this one the full justice it deserves. There's a certain amount of slapstick comedy towards the end, but even this has a streak of realism that makes the reader stop and think, 'doesn't life sometimes do things like this to people?'
I stopped thinking that Haddon had put together some characters, shook them up and wrote about the outcome. This is a very clever and meticulously plotted book that delivers a very real punch at the end. Like them, or hate them, his characters are on a journey of discovery and they are going to find out a great deal about themselves before the end. Whether you might think the ending too farcical then remember that one of the most stressful things in life is retirement, getting married, planning a wedding and becoming worried about health problems.
Personally I really enjoyed the book and although at times I felt as if the writer was in the middle of an old-fashioned farce, the careful planning brought the conclusion to a deserving end. You get the idea that this family is not going to live happily ever after, but that's for fairy tales, or is it? I'm certainly not going to do any plot-spoiling here.
If you are reading this book as a first from Mark Haddon then you have a treat in store. If, like me, you read it in comparison to 'A curious incident..' then you'll be selling yourself and the author short. Read it as a stand-alone book, it's well worth the read and I can imagine it would make a cracking film.
Recommended with four stars as I give out far too many five stars. It only falls slightly short and will probably stay in my mind for quite a while.
My book was borrowed from the library. This would make a good present and is reasonably priced at £5.41 though I'm sure you could get it cheaper. Also available in Kindle at £4.49.
İLisa Fuller 2011.
Summary: Read it for it's own sake.