A Spot of Bother – Mark Haddon
January 24, 2010 § 17 Comments
Dying was bad enough without having to make it easier for everyone else.
While trying on some clothes in a fitting room, George discovers a bump of something on his hip, a lesion, something out of the ordinary that shouldn’t be appearing on his hip. He decides he has cancer. He doesn’t tell his wife, Jean, because he doesn’t want her to worry. But what George doesn’t know is that Jean is sleeping with an ex-colleague of his, David.
Katie, George’s daughter, has just decided to marry a man her parents don’t like, Ray. But as they prepare for what is Katie’s second wedding, she starts to have doubts about whether she truly loves Ray, or if she’s only marrying him because of his house, the stability in life that Ray can offer her, and the fact that Ray is especially good with her son from her first marriage, Jacob.
Jamie, George’s son, on the other hand, presents another set of problems. Jamie is gay, and though his family has somewhat accepted it, there is still the minor (or major) problem of relatives who don’t accept him or his boyfriend, Tony. But then again, that’s not the only problem. Jamie and Tony are having relationship problems of their own, and things are not looking good.
Back again to George, and we realise that George seems to be losing his mind. So many things are happening around him, and it all seems very overwhelming for him. He is freaked out that he could have cancer, he doesn’t trust the doctor when he tells him he doesn’t, and none of his family members seem to have any time or patience to understand him.
It’s a family at its dysfunctional best.
There is a paragraph on the front flap of the book that reads like this:
The way these damaged people fall apart – and come together – as a family is the true subject of Mark Haddon’s disturbing yet very funny portrait of a dignified man trying to go insane politely.
That was exactly what it felt like. No matter what George was experiencing emotionally, no matter how scared he was of cancer, of death, or of anything else, he kept mostly to himself. His thoughts were painfully hilarious at times, just what you’d expect from someone who was growing increasingly paranoid.
A Spot of Bother was like a family saga that didn’t read like a family saga. Maybe it was the way it was written, with a change of chapter every time we got a change of perspective, and each one a very short chapter. Hence a long story is made into bite-size bits, you just continue eating and eating without knowing how much you’ve already had.
Each character was portrayed so well, like as if acted out by different actors, all very good. I could feel Katie’s insecurities about her second marriage, Jean’s worries that she might be found out, and Jamie’s yearning for something more.
He wanted… There was that feeling when you held someone, or when someone held you. The way your body relaxed. Like having a dog on your lap.
He needed to be close to someone. Wasn’t that what everyone wanted?
Occasionally I got a little emotional. But overall it was a very enjoyable read.
Note: I finally got tempted to read this after listening to one of the previous Books on the Nightstand podcasts.
Some of my more personal thoughts on Page 2..
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