Official Mark Haddon Website
Official Doubleday Website
A Review of Haddon's A Spot of Bother (2006)
Aug 14, 2007
Mark Haddonís claim to fame was his great debut The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time (Vintage, 2003), which centered on an autistic kid named Christopher Boone. decomP reviewed the book, and you can read our thoughts on it here. To move on, though, A Spot of Bother (Doubleday, 2006) is Haddonís second attempt at the novel, and at first glance, itís immediately noticeable that ASoB is longer and deals with a less challenging subject matter. Unfortunately, those aspects make Haddonís latest a mediocre effort.
While it could be argued that all novels, stories, poems, songs, etc. are about relationships to a certain extent, this particular book is an in-depth examination of a familyís interaction with each other as well as relevant outsiders. The recently retired George Hall is an ordinary fellow who has his misgivings about retirement, but when he discovers eczema on his leg, which he mistakes for cancer, his sanity begins to slowly unravel. All the while, his longtime wife Jean is having an affair with one of Georgeís former coworkers, his daughter Katie and his gay son Jamie are having their fair share of relationship difficulty by respectively settling for the prospect of an unromantic marriage and convincing a previous lover to give it another shot. The timeframe essentially revolves around Katieís impending wedding, and perhaps expectedly, the wedding itself is where everything comes to a head.
Though Haddonís characters are vivid, much of A Spot of Bother comes across as a meandering character study, which would be more permissible if they were actually likeable. Instead, itís easy to dismiss George for his passivity, Jean for her adulterous ways, Katie for her wishy-washiness, and Jamie for his ineptness. Still, the events and reactions therein are realistic and believable, yet not very interesting. Worth noting too is the fact that the novel isnít as experimental nor as visual as The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, and is also not up to par with its unique predecessor.
You may notice that there are no excerpts to support my claims, but since Iím in the process of moving, ASoB is buried in a box somewhere. At any rate, and in sum, this isnít a compelling read, plus the ending feels forced because everyoneís situation is resolved for the better. In other words, itís nothing special.
Jason Jordan's introduction to decomP came in July 2004 when he won our 4th of July contest. He joined the staff of decomP in September 2004 as Staff Reviewer and was promoted to Assistant Editor in January 2007, continuing to write reviews for the magazine, while assuming responsibilities as poetry editor. He has never slowed down in his work on the magazine and will assume the role of Editor in January 2008. Jason has hosted the Bean Street Reading Series, edited the IUS Review, and has been a featured writer at numerous venues throughout the midwest. His work appears in UltimateMetal, The2ndHand, Verbsap, Automiguel, RAGAD, and Pindeldyboz. He is currently pursuing his MFA in Creative Writing at Chatham University in Pittsburgh.