Flawed but human

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Mark Haddon A Spot of Bother
Vintage 2007 (2006)

Paterfamilias George has reached a turning point in his life. He’s just retired — always a dangerous moment — and forced to confront the fact that all is not well in the family circle. Son Jamie is unhappy about his sister Katie’s choice for husband, even though Ray gets on well with Katie’s son Jacob. Jamie himself risks all when he neglects to invite lover Tony to Katie and Ray’s wedding. George’s wife Jean, meanwhile, is anxious that the wedding may disrupt a secret affair she’s having. As the wedding approaches and, foreshadowing the bother that is to come, tensions start bubbling to the surface his family are unaware that George has his own worry — a blemish on his hip, the spot to which the title also refers. This cloud in George’s sky presages the storm that is to come.

Set in an English suburb, A Spot of Bother is very British comedy of manners which doesn’t always translate well into some cultures, judging from a few online reviews I’ve seen (though it has in fact been successfully filmed as Une petite zone de turbulences). It’s clear that some readers’ expectations of a repeat of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (2003) were largely disappointed: perhaps the angst of hypochondriac George’s midlife crisis didn’t have the same appeal as the mindset of a youngster on the autistic spectrum.

Nevertheless, I found this hard to put down. Laugh-out-loud at times, sad at other times, this was traditional farce that also created some rounded characters — flawed people all, but also very human. Maybe it also helped that I found it easy to empathise with George’s predicaments.

Repost of review first published November 5th 2013

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6 thoughts on “Flawed but human

    1. You’re right of course! Along with all those other examples of British litotes, such as “It ain’t half hot,” “We are not amused” and perhaps even Spike Milligan’s chosen epitaph, “I told you I was ill”. (Though Spike was actually Irish.)

    1. I think expectations were running high after Curious, and this was just not going to satisfy as much as that earlier novel based on the viewpoint of someone who wasn’t neurotypical. If this had come first I’m sure it would have had a better reception.

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