Friday, 30 October 2015

A Spot of Bother, by Mark Haddon

ReviewerJJ Marsh

What We Thought: Haddon’s breakthrough novel, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, gave the reader the unusual experience of piecing together a mystery through the eyes of Charlie, a young boy on the autistic disorder spectrum. In A Spot of Bother, we experience a domestic drama through various perspectives.

George, recently retired, finds a lesion on his hip. Despite his doctor’s assurances that it is eczema, he becomes convinced it’s cancer. He begins having panic attacks and seeing death and disease everywhere. His mental imbalance affects his wife, Jean, who has been quietly having an affair. To add to the disturbance, their daughter Katy announces she’s getting married to Ray, whom nobody likes. This bombshell causes a ripple effect and creates a rift in her brother’s relationship with Tony.

Haddon’s prose is spare and fluid, making you laugh aloud while wishing the characters knew what you know. There’s an almost theatrical feel to the way the scenes build to acts and climax in set pieces which border on farce. It’s a deceptively easy read, light in tone and suburban in setting, yet explores the heart of human relationships. Best of all, the fact we see the same incidents from differing perspectives forces us to acknowledge our own personal filters of experience. Not exactly a comfort read, but ultimately comforting.

Ideal accompaniments: a white wine spritzer, a tube of sour cream and chives Pringles and Gardeners’ Question Time on in the background.

You’ll enjoy this if you like: Alan Bennett, Mike Leigh, David Nicholls.

Avoid if you don’t like: suburban domestic drama set in Peterborough.

Genre: General fiction

Available from Amazon

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