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.

Rating: 4.5

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..

Page: 1 2

§ 17 Responses to A Spot of Bother – Mark Haddon

  • Jess says:

    I really enjoyed this book, too. You just reminded me of how funny it was.

  • Vishy says:

    Interesting review! I liked Mark Haddon’s first book ‘The Curious Incident of a Dog in the Nighttime’ but for some reason I didn’t like the synopsis of the story of ‘A Spot of Bother’ and didn’t read it. Now after reading your review, I am getting inspired to read it ๐Ÿ™‚

  • I attempted reading this book a few years back, after reading The Curious Incident of the Dog At Night Time. Unfortunately, I just couldn’t get into the book, and left it half-way. After reading your review, though, I think I should pick it off the shelf again!

  • savidgereads says:

    I really liked this book and tought it was a different and yet great follow up to Curious Incident. I wonder what Haddon has up his sleeve yet!

    • Michelle says:

      I haven’t read The Curious Incident yet, but I’ve heard that it’s much better than A Spot of Bother. I’m definitely looking forward to reading it soon.

  • mee says:

    It’s great to know you think highly of the book, as I’ve read mixed reviews on it. I read the Curious Incident and it was a great read, because it’s so different with everything else I have read. Well, I have A Spot of Bother on my shelf, so it’s only a matter of time before I get to it ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • Thank you for sharing your personal connection with this novel. I don’t think it’s easy to talk about the personal connections we have to the fictional words we read, and I appreciate the fact that you choose the share. I’m not sure what to say since, well, words are cheap, except that I’m happy for you that you’ll be going back to Malaysia and seeing your grandmother later on this year. *sends you hugs*

    As for the novel, I love the idea of changing POVs and the family saga aspect. *puts novel on to-read list*

    • Michelle says:

      Aw.. *hugs back*.. I don’t always get quite so.. um.. personal about the books I read. But then I guess, very coincidental timing. Haha..

      I think the changing POVs gave the book a lot of its merits. And Haddon did pull it off quite well.

  • aloi says:

    Ooooh, I just around to reading and reviewing this one too! Loved it! (Funny we seem to read the same things ๐Ÿ™‚ ) I like how you say it is a family saga, which isn’t quite …. and the style of the bite-sized bits! Very easy reading but not detracting from the fact that Haddon had a lot to say. Wonder if this is autobiographical?

    • Michelle says:

      Hmm… Never quite thought of that. It did seem rather real and believable. It was crazy, but crazy in a way that you could almost see it happening in real life. Glad we both loved it. =)

  • Jovenus says:

    I really want to try this one next. I love “The Curious Incident of a Dog in the Nighttimeโ€™ after your review, this sure has to be on my TBR now!

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