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. Continue reading “Flawed but human”

A liminal world

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Mark Haddon The Red House Vintage 2013 (2012)

A week in a holiday cottage away from the city; what could be more idyllic? Escape to the country, forget your woes, chill out, enjoy yourself.

Except it doesn’t always work out that way, does it? Because when you go you inevitably — if unconsciously — pack up your troubles in your luggage. And then you spend the week trying to ignore them, only to have them appear whenever you least expect it, or be picked over by others you hoped you’d never see again. Hell is other people, Sartre declared. But true hell is people with destructive secrets. Hell is you.

Siblings Angela and Richard have been estranged for some time. A father they barely knew, a recently deceased mother who had dementia, then an opportunity for them and their respective families to come together on neutral ground, to become re-acquainted, to rebuild bridges. A liminal world: a holiday just before the 2010 UK general election and a change of government; a cottage on the borders of Wales and England; the world turning, ghosts emerging to haunt the living; a solitary fox appearing, and the Venerable Bede’s sparrow recalled: Continue reading “A liminal world”