Return to A Spot of Bother (review)

A Spot of Bother is a novel by Mark Haddon, who is best known for his novel The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time. A Spot of Bother is very much the same sort of tale, although with a somewhat less interesting cast of characters.

The story primarily centers on George Hall, a recent retiree who is looking forward to settling down to a peaceful existence of doing nothing much at all. He has a number of barriers to his dream retirement -- a daughter who argues a lot and is getting remarried to a man he doesn't really approve of, a son who is gay (but he tries not to think about that), and a wife who is (unbeknownst to him) having an affair. Which would be trouble enough, but he also appears to be having a nervous breakdown.

His family members all get their turn in the spotlight, and we hear all about the kids' relationship troubles and his wife's conflictions. These are comparatively minor compared to George's overpowering anxiety attacks, but no one, himself included, seems to notice this. George hides his problems from everyone, including his doctor, and even when people do find out that he is apparently losing his mind, their own problems distract them from doing anything about it. Inevitably this builds towards disaster, but even then, George takes a back seat to the rest of his family's troubles.

Overall, the story is rather dull, but this is in part intentional. None of the characters (with the possible exception of George) are intended to be at all out of the ordinary, and until the final chapters this is played as a low-key drama and not a comedy. I do not have much patience for this sort of ongoing mundanity, so I did not much enjoy this book, but it is worth noting that I read the entire thing, which is an indication that it's somewhat entertaining. It has a bit of a Walter Mitty vibe, except that it goes on for much longer. I would strongly recommend reading another of his works before tackling this one; there's not really a point to reading A Spot of Bother unless you like his writing style.


Published by Doubleday, 2006; ISBN 0-385-52051-4

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