Wednesday, February 28, 2007

[Book Review] A SPOT OF BOTHER by Mark Haddon


Jesse Pool reviews A SPOT OF BOTHER by Mark Haddon (Doubleday, 2006)

Mark Haddon, author of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, has given us a novel about a dysfunctional English family coping the best it can with several simultaneous life-changing events. I found the book alternately heart-wrenching and hysterical.

Meet George Hall. George is a recent retiree and is also the patriarch of the Hall family. He's always kept to himself and is looking forward to taking up drawing again after he finishes building a shed in his garden. That is, of course, until he has "a spot of bother." George discovers a lesion on his leg one day and decides that he is dying of cancer, despite what the doctor says about it being eczema.

Jean, George's wife, has been having an affair with David, one of George's former co-workers. She feels torn between her loyalty to George, the adventurous life she dreams of having with David, and what her friends and relatives will think if she's found out.

Katie, George and Jean's daughter, is in her early 30s. She has a toddler son named Jacob. She also has a nasty temper. She's about to marry Ray, who is a wonderful provider and father-figure for Jacob. Unfortunately, Katie's parents don't really like Ray and, more importantly, she's not convinced that she's in love with him, either.

Jamie, Katie's brother, is young, successful and gay. Jamie's not sure how his father George feels about that, but his mother tries to be painfully hip about it. Jamie doesn't want to take his boyfriend Tony to Katie's wedding because he's afraid his family will put him off, but he may have to bring him to the wedding in order to keep him.

The story moves along as relationships among the characters are tangled, tested, broken and mended at dizzying speed. All the way to the end of the book, I wondered if things would work out for the best or if it would all end in disaster. Both outcomes seemed likely, and in a way, both would have been satisfying. I was not disappointed.

Jesse Pool, Highland Branch Library

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