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A Spot of Bother Hardcover – September 5, 2006

185 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

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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From The New Yorker

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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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 354 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday; First Edition edition (September 5, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385520514
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385520515
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 1.5 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (185 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,096,807 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

74 of 79 people found the following review helpful By Gregory Baird VINE VOICE on September 20, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Mark Haddon had quite a challenge coming off of the quirky, wonderful "Curious Incident of the Dog in Night-time." How could you possibly follow that up? Haddon takes the noble approach by trying a different tact this time around; while "Incident" was seen solely from the point of view of one person (who just happened to be autistic), "Bother" takes on an entire family whose lives get shaken up in the weeks before the daughter's wedding. It's a very different approach that thankfully keeps Haddon's quirky sense of humor. Haddon also challenges himself by presenting us with some deeply shallow, selfish characters that for the first hundred pages are pretty severely unlikable. I was thoroughly convinced that there was no way I could ever care what happens to such wretched people, but Haddon proved me wrong. First, let's meet them: there's the matriarch, Jean, who has been having an affair with a former colleague of her husband; Jamie, the gay son, who has just been dumped by the boyfriend he stubbornly refused to invite to the wedding to meet his family; daughter Katie, whose nuptials may be cancelled because she can't decide if she loves her fiance or not; and George, the patriarch who suffers a complete mental breakdown after retirement and the appearance of a lesion on his hip (the titular spot of bother). Jean, Jamie, and Katie start out completely insufferable, but after the first hundred pages they have been forced to re-examine their lives and become determined to be better people. They discover their softer, more human sides and set about righting the wrongs they have committed. In no time at all I was hopelessly caught up rooting for them to get their lives back on track. George has the opposite problem: he has always been relatively stable, if emotionally distant.Read more ›
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35 of 39 people found the following review helpful By Timothy Haugh VINE VOICE on December 10, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Following up a book of rare excellence like Mr. Haddon's first novel, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, is difficult. Seeing the world through the eyes of an autistic child like Christopher John Francis Boone is a real revelation. Seeing the world through the growing madness of George Hall in A Spot of Bother may not be the same but it is a worthy successor.

And, let's face it, George may be the one going clinically insane here, but he is surrounded by a family that could certainly try any man's nerves: a wife cheating on him with a former co-worker, an argumentative daughter marrying a man she's not sure she loves and a gay son who has trouble sustaining relationships. Haddon's success in this novel is that he manages all this madness in a way that seems very real.

To be honest, he handles it in such a realistic way that the first third of the novel is a bit of a slog. Interesting in the sense that you are getting to know these characters but trying in the sense that you are waiting for something more to happen. Then, around page 100, events start to accelerate and they don't let up until the final explosion and the wedding reception at the end of the novel (foreshadowed nicely, I might add, by real fireworks--the kind that explode in colors in the sky).

Far be it from me to give away any of the actual events. Needless to say, he pushes the boundaries of believability but doesn't quite break them. If there is a problem here, it's that everyone else except the four adults in this family seem so normal while they struggle with each other's craziness. But, then again, maybe that's how the world seems when we compare our families to the world at large. Which may be why this novel is fun to read.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Melissa N. VINE VOICE on August 25, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I loved "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time," and I didn't think "A Spot of Bother" could possibly live up to its predecessor. I was wrong. Amazingly, Mark Haddon's second book is even more brilliant than his first one. It also has a completely different feel to it than Haddon's first book, which makes it even more impressive.

"A Spot of Bother" is a hilarious look at the life of a dysfunctional British family. There's George, a recent retiree who is convinced that his eczema is actually cancer and slowly starts losing his mind. George's wife, Jean, is secretly having an affair with her husband's former colleague, David. Jamie, George and Jean's son, doesn't think his parents have accepted the fact that he's gay, and he's also having major problems with his boyfriend, Tony. Katie, George and Jean's daughter, has a young child from her disastrous first marriage and is about to marry Ray, a man that no one in her family can stand.

I really enjoyed this book. It's a comical farce with plenty of laughs, but it's also a touching family tale that all readers will probably be able to relate to on some level (which is a scary thought). I can't wait to see what Haddon writes next.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Book Worm on September 11, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Haddon's trademark wit--an improbable mixture of acerbic wisecracks and compassionate quips--is alive and well in A Spot of Bother. Here, Haddon proves himself to be a masterful story-teller and not just a one-shot wonder. He makes the mundane seem miraculous and embraces the often ugly complexities of family life. Each family member is imbued with both innocuous foibles and categorical flaws, and the book, like its defective characters, comes together as a cohesive unit. It's kind of like Little Miss Sunshine--but better.
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