From Publishers Weekly
Recent retiree George Hall, convinced that his eczema is cancer, goes into a tailspin in Haddon's (Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
) laugh-out-loud slice of British domestic life. George, 61, is clearly channeling a host of other worries into the discoloration on his hip (the "spot of bother"): daughter Katie, who has a toddler, Jacob, from her disastrous first-marriage to the horrid Graham, is about to marry the equally unlikable Ray; inattentive wife Jean is having an affair—with George's former co-worker, David Symmonds; and son Jamie doesn't think George is OK with Jamie's being queer. Haddon gets into their heads wonderfully, from Jean's waffling about her affair to Katie's being overwhelmed (by Jacob, and by her impending marriage) and Jamie's takes on men (and boyfriend Tony in particular, who wants to come to the wedding). Mild-mannered George, meanwhile, despairing over his health, slinks into a depression; his major coping strategies involve hiding behind furniture on all fours and lowing like a cow. It's an odd, slight plot—something like the movie Father of the Bride
crossed with Poe's "The Tell-Tale Heart" (as skin rash)—but it zips along, and Haddon subtly pulls it all together with sparkling asides and a genuine sympathy for his poor Halls. No bother at all, this comic follow-up to Haddon's blockbuster (and nicely selling book of poems) is great fun. (Sept.)
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Haddon's acclaimed debut novel, "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time," brilliantly imagined the inner world of an autistic teen-ager. Here the hero is similarly uncommunicative and detached, this time because of a stiff upper lip. George, recently retired, thinks talking is "overrated" and greets the death of a friend with relief "that they would not be playing squash again." Obsessed with his own mortality, he barely registers the dramas around him: his wife is having an affair, his daughter is marrying a man she's not sure she loves, and his son is afraid to bring his boyfriend to the wedding. Haddon has a deft comic touch, but he pushes his characters too hard toward epiphanies, and in the end this antic farce is merely affable, without surprises.
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