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A Spot of Bother

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George Hall is an unobtrusive man. A little distant, perhaps, a little cautious, not at quite at ease with the emotional demands of fatherhood, or manly bonhomie. He does not understand the modern obsession with talking about everything. “The secret of contentment, George felt, lay in ignoring many things completely.” Some things in life, however, cannot be ignored.

At 61, George is settling down to a comfortable retirement, building a shed in his garden, reading historical novels and listening to a bit of light jazz. Then his tempestuous daughter, Katie, announces that she is getting re-married, to the deeply inappropriate Ray. Her family is not pleased – as her brother Jamie observes, Ray has “strangler’s hands.” Katie can’t decide if she loves Ray, or loves the wonderful way he has with her son Jacob, and her mother Jean is a bit put out by all the planning and arguing the wedding has occasioned, which get in the way of her quite fulfilling late-life affair with one of her husband’s ex-colleagues. And the tidy and pleasant life Jamie has created crumbles when he fails to invite his lover, Tony, to the dreaded nuptials.

Unnoticed in the uproar, George discovers a sinister lesion on his hip, and quietly begins to lose his mind.

The way these damaged people fall apart – and come together – as a family is the true subject of Haddon’s disturbing yet amusing portrait of a dignified man trying to go insane politely.

A SPOT OF BOTHER is Mark Haddon’s unforgettable follow-up to the internationally beloved bestseller THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT-TIME. Here the madness – literally – of family life proves rich comic fodder for Haddon’s crackling prose and bittersweet insights into misdirected love.

354 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 2006

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About the author

Mark Haddon

82 books3,642 followers
Mark Haddon is a British novelist and poet, best known for his 2003 novel The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time. He was educated at Uppingham School and Merton College, Oxford, where he studied English.

In 2003, Haddon won the Whitbread Book of the Year Award and in 2004, the Commonwealth Writers' Prize Overall Best First Book for his novel The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, a book which is written from the perspective of a boy with Aspergers syndrome. Haddon's knowledge of Aspergers syndrome, a type of autism, comes from his work with autistic people as a young man. In an interview at Powells.com, Haddon claimed that this was the first book that he wrote intentionally for an adult audience; he was surprised when his publisher suggested marketing it to both adult and child audiences. His second adult-novel, A Spot of Bother, was published in September 2006.

Mark Haddon is also known for his series of Agent Z books, one of which, Agent Z and the Penguin from Mars, was made into a 1996 Children's BBC sitcom. He also wrote the screenplay for the BBC television adaptation of Raymond Briggs's story Fungus the Bogeyman, screened on BBC1 in 2004. He also wrote the 2007 BBC television drama Coming Down the Mountain.

Haddon is a vegetarian, and enjoys vegetarian cookery. He describes himself as a 'hard-line atheist'. In an interview with The Observer, Haddon said "I am atheist in a very religious mould". His atheism might be inferred from The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time in which the main character declares that those who believe in God are stupid.

Mark Haddon lives in Oxford with his wife Dr. Sos Eltis, a Fellow of Brasenose College, Oxford, and their two young sons.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 3,528 reviews
Profile Image for Baba.
3,562 reviews859 followers
December 27, 2022
A man thinks he might have cancer whilst his family is all over the place life-wise; oh, and he might be having a mental breakdown! From Mark Haddon, who brought us 'The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time" comes another character study, this one being a delightful dark comedy nearing farce at times, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

For those of you that actually read my reviews (thank you so much), you'll know that first and foremost, for fiction, what matters most to me is story, and in that vein I would consider Haddon a pretty good storyteller in this book; a great example being that his inner monologues for the main protagonist are so on point :).

A Spot of Bother is humorously neat, and also dare I say, a spot of a pleasant read. 8 out of 12, Four Star read!

2007 read
Profile Image for Patrick.
262 reviews91 followers
December 22, 2007
I pretty much hated this book. It was the type of book that you read because you liked the author's other work, but it's so aggressively bad that it makes you reconsider whether or not you actually liked the author's previous work upon closer consideration.

So what was so bad about it? Well, for the one the characters simply didn't ring true. They all felt poorly sketched out, just a bunch of people having what Haddon would have you believe are constant epiphanies about their sad little lives. He writes in such a way that you can tell he wants the reader to think it's a stunning revelation that this character is having, when it's just another dull moment in a rather dull story. If I had a dollar for every time Haddon made a one sentence paragraph meant to reveal some larger truth about the character's personalities, I'd be a rich man. He also has a nasty habit of ending each "chapter" (there are well over 100 of them, most 2 pages or less) with some half-assed "cliff-hanger", something better suited to the James Pattersons and R.L. Stines of the world.

Haddon doesn't seem to understand his characters, and he doesn't seem to care to, either. He simply throws a jumble of people into awkward situations and has them (over)react like a bunch of unlikeable, selfish jerks and then comment to themselves that, perhaps, they are acting like unlikeable, selfish jerks who are overreacting to what are, in reality, fairly mundane situations. They're sad, selfish little people, yet Haddon seems to think they are endearing.

Finally, he ends the book fairly abruptly and with a neat little bow on top that doesn't suit it. Everything works out for everyone involved, yet no one seemed to learn anything or grow as people. They all ended exactly where they began with no growth whatsoever. I've heard people who are familiar with autism claim that Haddon's sketch of the child in 'A Curious Incident of the Dog in the NightTime' was actually woefully inaccurate and quite offensive, and seeing the way he handles his characters' problems in this story, I'm much more inclined to believe that. Just an awful, awful book. Haddon seems to think he's writing a British version of 'The Corrections', but he's painfully mistaken. I'll probably not read anything by Haddon again.
Profile Image for jo.
613 reviews489 followers
January 30, 2009
i don't know why people who've read the curious incident of the dog in the night-time would find this second novel a let-down. it seems to me equally tender, sweet, and heartbreaking. it's also hilariously funny. haddon does heartbreaking and funny with such grace, simplicity, and verbal virtuosity, it's wonderful. i admire this writer greatly.

what i admire most about him is that he shows us the behavior of "crazy" people who do "crazy" things from the inside, and from the inside these crazy things make total sense. george's shenanigans are as meaningful and entirely understandable to us as christopher's shenanigans, and, just like in the first novel, we are quite surprised that people around these two should not be more compassionate and understanding, because both george and christopher seem lost in an earnest, brave, broken, and entirely adorable way.

there's a lot here about class, and i imagine other non-english people might find it as hard to make sense of as i did. i mean, ray seems absolutely perfect from all possible points of view, as does tony, but the stuff of class gets in the way tremendously, and one is left quite perplexed until one remembers what one has learned about england from the movies, and it makes a little more sense.

the little kid jacob is picture perfect. haddon has a thing with little kids (of all ages).

another thing that haddon does really really well is show how people like george and christopher, i.e. people who either are different or become different at some point in their lives for some very painful reason, manage to break down barriers and distances in others that would otherwise be as immutable and untouchable as the rotation of the planets. and then everyone feels better.

except there is hell to pay, for everyone, and this is the really heartbreaking part, the amount of pain haddon packs in his books. i was discussing this just now with someone and realized that the highest common denominator between dog and bother is terror. and i don't do terror very well. but this book eases you into terror gently, and by the time you realize that the book is killing you you are too caught up to stop reading it.

anyway, i really liked this book. it doesn't dispel the terror, or maybe it doesn't do so entirely, but it might make you feel like you are not the only one to live in a constant state of terror, and that's a little soothing unto itself.
Profile Image for Pierce.
183 reviews71 followers
July 6, 2008
As we approach the end of my first year of recorded and reviewed reading, I have read almost no bad books. The Fermata was bad, but the guy could write, he just decided to write something we all thought was fucking awful.

This was a bad book.

Oh how do I hate this book? Let me count the ways:

1) Every word in this novel is written in conversational, lazy prose. "Absolutely" is used repeatedly for emphasis. "Cue" something or other. The kind of verbal junk we are all guilty of in verbal conversation, but letting it form the bulk of your novel is unforgivable. I felt like I was reading a second-year English essay. Honest to god, I'm not exaggerating. Junk prose. Never a hint of an interesting sentence structure.

2) This device, used repeatedly, I'm guessing to give the novel some appearance of depth. Let's call it the Family Guy Device. "The day was turning out badly. Almost as badly as that barbecue with David Morris and Bettie Constance in Salford last summer, thought George." STOP RANDOMLY FUCKING DROPPING NAMES I'VE NEVER HEARD BEFORE AND WON'T HEAR AGAIN. There's enough one-dimensional characters to keep track of without my having to check off new names against the list every two chapters. I can't tell you how many times this was used in the course of 500 pages.

3) 500 PAGES? To tell this story? Are you kidding me?

4) The relentless assault of pop-culture references. Lethal Weapon, The 6th Sense, The Lord of the Rings, BBC Radio 4. Wedding music is "that Bach Double Violin piece from the compilation CD Dad gave her from Christmas last year." And it's not just the pop-culture bits (Oscar Wao was full of Lord of the Rings stuff), it's that they are brought up again and again and again, but not one character betrays any interest that dips below to most shallow and obvious cultural stables. It felt like examples of tastes were deliberately chosen so that no reader would ever miss a reference. These people, is seems, are the most banal people you have ever met.


Picture a wet Sunday afternoon, and you are spending it at a slightly run-down shopping centre in the outskirts of town. You check out the record store, but whoever's stocked their shelved has decided to focus on boy-bands and Nickelback and club-anthem compilations. The book-shop is full of ugly, glossy cookbooks and footballer biographies. You glance into the clothes shops but the mannequins all look like the men you feel most uncomfortable around in the pub at weekends. You go to the cafeteria to kill some time, and sit under bright fluorescent lighting at grey plastic tables and eat a bun seemingly made out of another kind of plastic. The tea is tepid and has an oily film on its surface.

And it's not the afternoon you're experiencing in this place, it's the people around you, when you realise that even if you asked them, they wouldn't see what's wrong with this. They wouldn't understand your problem.
This novel was a 500 page trek through everything that tires and disappoints me most about the modern world, and I'm sorry if that illuminates some fault in me and not the novel, but that's the way I feel.
Profile Image for Elyse Walters.
4,010 reviews24 followers
February 2, 2016

I just notice Mark Haddon has a new book coming out (short stories) ---"The Pier Falls"

I entered the 'give-a-way' (a girl can hope) -- :)

I LOVED this book sooooooooooooo much --I had a few copies at one time.... (gave copies away).
For some reason --I like this 'MORE' than a few of my friends --but I was DYING LAUGHING ...(forgive me if I sound nasty) ....during the bedroom scenes....
and then there was the daughter's wedding... (I just LOVED this book --and could read it again)...I adore the authors sense of humor.

I thought it was hilarious --AND touching!

I know everyone remembers "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night"

Every so often somebody asks me....'what is a good-charming-light -(but not slapstick) book to read? THIS would be THAT book.....(especially for old married farts with daughters like myself)
Profile Image for Michael.
1,094 reviews1,510 followers
February 6, 2016
Modest past review discovered to have been lost in an import from Shelfari:
The survival of a modest man shown charmingly with much deadpan humor. George Hall thinks he has cancer, which shapes how he reacts to more mundane crises, such as an unfaithful wife, a son struggling with gayness, and a daughter about to marry poorly. He seems to gain a sense of sanity from learning first hand how crazy everyone else is. Our lovable hero just keeps having bad luck, but always rises to the surface. The internal dialog is part Walter Mitty, part Yossarian.
Profile Image for Elaine.
604 reviews230 followers
October 17, 2015
This is a really good, absorbing drama about a family in crisis and in particular tells the story of George who, at the age of 57, suddenly faces the fact that he is not going to live forever upon the discovery of a lesion on his hip. Wife Jean is sleeping with an old work colleague of his. Daughter Katie is preparing her wedding to Ray, a man who is universally disliked by her family and to be honest, she is not sure whether she is marrying him for the right reasons. Finally, son Jamie is facing a dilemma – he wants to bring his partner Tony to the wedding, but he fears his family are not ready for that.

There is a thread of black humour running through the book but I did feel it was more moving and emotional than funny as George’s depression first crept up and then engulfed him. It all felt so real, as if it was happening to somebody I knew and these sections in particular were beautifully written. The whole family, in fact, felt frighteningly real to me, and I found myself nodding my head so many times throughout the book at things they said.

They are all in crisis in one way or another, and as each short and sharp chapter is told through alternate viewpoints, I really got a good understanding about what was going through everyone’s thoughts. They are all brutally honest with themselves but the sadness is that none of them speak to each other about the things that matter.

It was a book that really grabbed me and held my attention during the build up to the wedding but there were one or two things I wasn’t too sure about. George is 57 and I am in my early 50s so I could really understand his sudden fear when he realised that he is not immortal, but he didn’t “feel” like someone in his fifties. I never saw him, or Jean, as contemporaries as mine as they felt as if they were from a different generation. I did feel the ending was a little “too” upbeat, the cloud over George’s head just seemed to blow away a little too easily in relation to the pain he suffered throughout the book. I couldn’t help thinking “oh if only depression could be solved that easily in real life”. On the whole though, this is a good entertaining read that delivers some very real home truths with very realistic characters that I thoroughly enjoyed. Yes, there are those bits that I wasn’t sure about, but they were far outweighed by the good.

Profile Image for Kaion.
501 reviews100 followers
March 2, 2010
A Spot of Bother is an alternating-POV story about going quietly mad and loudly sane, and love under all our layers of repression and confusion: There’s newly-retired dad George, politely failing to bury his increasing obsessive thoughts of mortality under a zest for home renovations. Mom Jean, already balancing familial duty and work and volunteering, is just trying to find more time for her passionate affair with a long-time acquaintance. Their outspoken grown-up daughter Katie intends to marry her boyfriend Ray despite her suspicion that he’s wrong for her— because he’s right for her son. And emotionally-distant son Jamie just can’t explain to his boyfriend why he’s not invited to the wedding.

Haddon’s style is pretty sparse, but earnest. The characters’ dramas could easily become trite, but their awareness and wryness in the face of their situations instead lends an endearing realness. At times I almost felt a little cheated that the split narratives, by necessity, truncated the fuller version of each story. But even with the glimpses, I got a sense that each Hall lived in a world beyond just the necessary set pieces, full of friends and coworkers and exes—of complex relationships—a specificity that allowed me to be drawn into their struggles in spite of myself. The strongest parts of the novel are actually when the family members directly interact. We get to “see” the same events in their overlapping voices, which surprised me by highlighting the complexities of intention and communication (rather than falling into tedious exercise).

If you’ve ever seen one of these comedies, it’s hardly a surprise that all these threads erupt into a madcap ending. I think some readers might find George’s central story kind of crass and shocking and inexplicable at times. I sort of wished Haddon was less enigmatic about it, especially being the subject that was probably the hardest to comprehend or relate to. But real life is not tied up so easily.

And so when all the dust settled, I found myself left with some heartwarming end scenes and some open end scenes… but most of all, the overall sense of empathy for the ways people try to make sense out of the chaos.

(Reread April 2012: Nothing to add of insight, except to note poor Mark Haddon, doomed to forever have his work as "not as good as his first novel Curious Incident. Well those people are wrong. A Spot of Bothers's comedy of manners is just as accessible, and it shows more maturity regarding character development and less reliance on the so-called cute gimmicks he's been accused of propogating. I'm sure I've saved him from crying into buckets of money now, so this reread has gone to good cause.)
Profile Image for Seth T..
Author 5 books864 followers
January 23, 2008
I'm not really sure what to say about this one. I really can't generate strong feelings one way or another on its behalf. It wasn't bad but it wasn't good - and conversely, it wasn't good but it wasn't bad. It had likable moments and parts that I laughed at. And some of Haddon's descriptions were priceless (e.g., the "chickeny scrotum" bit). But then there was the rest of it. I kept feeling that if it was either good or bad, I would have relished finishing it so that I could relish talking about it.

But it wasn't. And so I didn't. It was, I guess, the most mediocre book I've ever read. Everything works as a perfect counter-balance for everything else.

The characters are almost uniformly unlikeable - as well as being flatly conceived. But then the tone of the book is largely humourous and brisk. Every event in the novel feels contrived and every dialogue scripted. But the things that are said are sometimes funny and the situations make it possible for more funny things to be said. And so on.

In then end, if you ask me whether I liked the book, I'd simply have to respond with a shrug and one of those perplexed looks that doubles for I don't know.

NOTE: far more interesting than the actual book is the author's account of the bloody illustration that ended up on newer additions of the book. Unfortunately, mine was a not-so-endearing cover. I think I probably would have enjoyed the book more had I been properly primed for it by the cover.
Profile Image for Connie G.
1,691 reviews451 followers
June 24, 2020
Recently retired George Hall, a quiet family man, is thrown into a panic when he finds a large spot on his skin. Although his doctor assures him it's not serious, George is convinced it's cancer and he's going to die. Meanwhile, his daughter Katie announces that she is going to marry Ray, a man who might not be right for her. Katie's gay brother, Jamie, is on the outs with his boyfriend. Adding to the stress, George's wife has a smooth, handsome lover.

This is a domestic comedy about a dysfunctional family trying to cope with wedding preparations for an "on again, off again" wedding. In real life, one would hope that George's mental health problems would be taken more seriously. Everyone seems caught up in their own problems and the impending wedding. There are lots of humorous situations with the family members eventually finding out what is important in life. "A Spot of Bother" was a fun read full of catastrophes and comedy. 3.5 stars rounded up.
Profile Image for MJ Nicholls.
2,024 reviews4,071 followers
August 23, 2011
This book made Curious Incident fans wail and gnash their teeth in 2006. Who knows how Haddon’s reputation fares today, following the lukewarm response to this breezy domestic drama? I get the impression children’s voices are more his forte, what with being a bestselling kids' author and all. In fact, some of the best lines in this book belong to the toddler Jacob and revolve around poo and ice cream. But this is hardly worth a literary excommunication. It is the sort of book only established authors can release, but it does satisfy as a “warm-hearted page-turner” (does anyone else feel sick?)

George is the centre of the story, a retired bourgeois gent who becomes a hypochondriac, a depressive and—later on, when he watches his wife being ploughed by another man—a self-harming borderline psychotic. His descent into madness while his selfish little brood run around arguing and breaking up and making up forms the moral centre of the book, though Haddon works hard to make the selfish people loveable in the end, and almost succeeds. Katie is still about as pleasant as a wet haddock in the face, and the mother is Hyacinth Bouquet without the moral compass. The men are nicer. The women not so nice. Discuss.

So there isn’t much in the way of style, originality or humour—this is David Nicholls territory, best left to David Nicholls—but it does provide an engaging and cosy alternative to being alive for a few hours, and that’s perhaps the best thing a book can offer.
Profile Image for Kirsten.
43 reviews2 followers
January 23, 2008
A very entertaining and intelligent "page-turner", which is a rare combination of traits. As a story told from four well-written viewpoints, it succeeds in evoking an emotional connection with the characters. But I worry about too much modern fiction presenting the literary equivalent of short serial television episodes all jumbled together in something described as a novel.

I suppose readers' attention spans are becoming shorter, but should fiction really cater to that fact? There is definitely a craft to revealing multiple characters' motivations without resorting to the division of a book into 144 chapters written from different perspectives. It made me feel like a choose-your-own-adventure reader when I flipped through dozens of pages to continue on with one character's story for more than just four paragraphs at a time.

However, I have to say that the device certainly worked. I really couldn't put this book down, even while cooking. The characters felt three-dimensional (flawless in their depiction, in fact) and the plot was realistic yet unpredictable.

Just one teensy complaint: all four narrators had too many reveries about family holidays to foreign countries. Obviously this was a ploy to show just how close-knit this clan really is, but some other flashback options would have been appreciated. ...Or maybe we are to believe that the only time this family really existed together was on vacation, which is quite possible.

Just the right amount of convincing character arcs made this book worthy of an overused jacket-blurb adjective: heartwarming.
Profile Image for Joe.
3 reviews4 followers
September 27, 2007
Having read Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, I expected my sophomore foray into Haddon's style of novel-writing to be a bit of a departure. If you don't know already the book was written from the point-of-view of a boy with Asperger's Syndrome (a functional form of Autism) and delivered with a fair amount of empathy that warmed the reader to an otherwise antisocial and charmless character.

However, I felt that even from an omniscient point-of-view, Haddon hardly piqued my personal interest in any of the central players in this book. It's written in a matter-of-fact style that hearkens back to that of Curious but fails to deliver a real story. The jacket hinted that the hero would be George, a retired father and cuckold with a nagging topical infirmity but my mind wandered so often that I found it far more interesting to read the book as though the protagonist was the tension between each of the family members centered around him. (Try this - it was actually more fascinating than trying to patiently wait for a real story). The bottom line is that the novel goes nowhere while switching from character to character where the writer may or may not be attempting to impress the reader with his gift for communing with unrelated elements of human discord. In other words, English people are boring. This may not be the case but the book makes a strong argument to the contrary.

On the positive side, he does seamlessly transition between voices throughout the book with some alacrity and I do think he has a penchant for delivering a fitting description of what one's state of mind is in the most mundane of circumstances. I was also impressed by how well he wrote without using a cliché chain of simile after simile. Again, this is another symptom of my mind wandering from lack of interest but I am fond of writers who can deliver their craft without a notepad full of brilliant adjective phrases right next to the computer.

In any case, I would still recommend taking a look at it if you read Curious and plan to keep tabs on Haddon's evolution from writing children's books. As for me, put on the spot, I may not bother.
7 reviews
December 16, 2007
First the quibbles: Haddon's a young guy. He has a young guy's perspective, which is to say, a limited perspective. His portrayals of the middle-aged are in places laughable. Mark, I've got to tell you: people over fifty don't think the world belongs to the young. They don't think they're obsolete. It's young people who think that about their elders. Youngsters are often (not always) better at the very latest technology, but that's their only advantage. Well, that, and the good health they take for granted. Also, Haddon writes here about people with no real problems, which is to say, the characters are well-off, not in physical want or peril, and advantaged in every way. Yet they suffer. And whine. At length. But that is what characters in novels do. At least Haddon has them whine interestingly and about problems that we absolutely relate to. After all, lots of readers are whiners, too.

Callowness (and shallowness) aside, A Spot of Bother is great writing. Haddon explores deep and painful areas in a way that reads fast and easily, with just the right kind of humor in just the right places. It's as much a riveting page-turner as any thriller, and nearly as suspenseful. He really is an adept writer, able to expose human lunacy, wrong-headedness, love, and decency with the seeming ease of turning a shirt inside out. Highly recommended.

bonus: It's British.
110 reviews1 follower
August 25, 2008
Hilarious!!!! What a wonderful story, that kept me laughing the whole time. Haddon does a wonderful job giving his characters life. It made me wonder what I'll be like when I retire will I be as crazy and eccentric as the main character.
Profile Image for The Cats’ Mother.
2,062 reviews132 followers
February 1, 2022
A Spot of Bother is a 2006 family dramedy by the author of the fabulously quirky bestseller, The Curious Case of the Dog in the Night-time. It’s been sitting on my to-read shelf for about ten years since picking it up at a book fair, but I’m on a mission to read more tree-books this year, so selected it because I thought it would be funny. Sadly, it was not - it’s actually hard to believe it’s the same writer. I was forewarned by the mostly negative reviews, but wanted to make up my own mind. I didn’t hate it, but after 500 pages about some fairly awful people and a very meh ending, I wouldn’t recommend it either.

George Hall and his wife are distressed to learn that their prickly daughter Katie is getting married again, to a man they disapprove of for non-specific class-based reasons. Katie isn’t sure herself whether she loves Ray, but he is very good with her pre-schooler Jacob. Her brother Jamie is afraid of committing to his boyfriend Tony, but isn’t quite sure what he wants. Then George discovers a suspicious mole and that his wife is having an affair, and a mild mid-life crisis turns into a full-on nervous breakdown, but nothing can stop a runaway wedding…

I wanted to like this, I really did. I gamely pushed on, through the disjointed writing, the endless random inconsequential character names that litter the narrative, serving only to confuse the reader, the awful selfish family of middle-class twats, the grotesque depictions of aged sex and the painful lack of any actual humour. I did like poor stoic Ray, and the gay love story was sort of sweet, and it did finally get interesting around the mid-point when George attempts to cure his problem, but then it got pretty boring again. I persisted, waiting for some kind of pay-off: I suppose you could call it a happy ending in that all the characters get what they deserve, but the reader does not. I am therefore downgrading my initial 3 star rating to 2.
Profile Image for Angela.
160 reviews21 followers
December 16, 2008
Dear Budding Indie Film-maker,

I know how tempted you are to turn this quirky little book into a quirky little movie. You've mentally cast James Cromwell as the family patriarch who's sure the excema on his leg is actually cancer. You know just how the camera will close in on the faces of the actors as they make realizations that will change their life.

And you're really looking forward to filming some of the genuinely sweet and funny scenes, knowing the audience will roar with laughter while wiping tears from their eyes.

Don't do it. It won't work. I've seen that movie so many times, and the close ups are pointless, the wonderful actors wasted.

The charm of this book is knowing what the characters are thinking, and what they've been through. Flashbacks and narration would just get annoying in a film version. And though there are some terrific lines, the kind you read over and over again, and would probably rewind the DVD for, those lines aren't gonna carry a whole movie.

Instead, filmmakers, just enjoy this book as it is. Go ahead and picture the action in your mental movie, because that's going to be lots better.
Profile Image for Uci .
601 reviews110 followers
August 5, 2010
It's like rain in your wedding day
It's a free ride when you've already paid
It's a good advice that you just didn't take
and who would've thought...it figures

Ironic by Alanis Morisette

George Hall menjalani hidupnya tanpa neko-neko. Menikah, punya anak, punya rumah dan pekerjaan yang bagus, pokoknya segala hal yang sepatutnya dimiliki lelaki baik-baik. Namun memasuki masa pensiun, tiba-tiba berbagai masalah menjungkirbalikkan hidupnya yang sempurna. Putrinya Katie akan melangsungkan pernikahan kedua dengan lelaki yang menurut George dan Jean, istrinya, tidak selevel dengan Katie. Putra mereka Jamie akan membawa pacarnya Tony ke pernikahan tersebut, yang membuat George terpaksa harus mulai menerima kenyataan bahwa Jamie adalah seorang gay. Sebentuk daging tiba-tiba muncul di pinggul George, membuatnya depresi karena takut mati terserang kanker. Dan puncaknya, Jean berselingkuh dengan mantan rekan sekantor George. George pun mulai bertanya-tanya, apakah selama ini dia telah menyia-nyiakan waktunya, dengan tidak melakukan hal-hal yang disukainya, demi mengejar hidup yang aman. Sementara pernikahan putrinya sudah semakin dekat...

Rusuhnya persiapan pernikahan memang menarik dijadikan bahan cerita. Sejumlah film yang pernah saya tonton juga mengangkat tema serupa, seperti Father of the Bride, My Bestfriend's Wedding, Rachel Getting Married, dll. Walaupun tidak persis sama, tapi benang merahnya adalah berbagai masalah yang timbul menjelang hari pernikahan. Mungkin karena acara pernikahan sering kali menguras tenaga dan emosi, sehingga rawan mengundang pertengkaran, tangisan, pertemuan, pelarian, atau malah perpisahan.

Itu sebabnya meskipun dalam novel ini Mark Haddon masih punya 'daya magis' untuk menyihir pembaca seperti saya tetap terpaku menyimak halaman demi halaman sampai tuntas, namun tema yang diangkat tidak seunik The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.

Di buku ini, Haddon sangat sabar memaparkan detail hari demi hari yang dilewati masing-masing tokoh. Ritual mandi atau makan sepulang dari kantor bisa dia jabarkan satu per satu tanpa kehilangan stamina. Bagi pembaca yang menunggu-nunggu aksi seru mungkin bisa mati bosan di tengah jalan :D Tapi untungnya Haddon masih menyisipkan lelucon-lelucon sarkastik di antara cerita, jadi cukup menghibur.

Yang jelas novel ini kembali membuat saya berpikir, apakah saya sebaiknya tetap hidup lurus-lurus saja seperti selama ini, atau mulai nekat mengejar semua yang ingin saya lakukan tapi tidak pernah berani saya lakukan? Hidup toh cuma sekali....


Profile Image for Kinga.
476 reviews2,200 followers
December 10, 2009
Firstly, I'd like to point out I have NOT read The Curious Incident.. but given the hype surrounding the author I was expecting big things.
To be honest, if this was his first book we probably wouldn't know who Mark Haddon is. I am not sure it would even get published. It doesn't mean it's a completely bad book - it will keep you hooked during that morning tube ride, but it doesn't stand out.
Considering the profoundness of the characters epiphanies you could think the author is ten years old. The style doesn't make you think otherwise as the sentences are connected by endless and... and.. and.. I know Haddon was going for wry and humourous but it's a tricky thing. He was definitely trying too hard and made me cringe quite often. He was also clearly abusing the word 'clearly'. The editor clearly changed some of the 'clearlys' to 'apparently' and 'obviously' but at least one 'clearly' per every other page made it through.
There were lots of cliff hangers achieved mostly by characters not having a mobile phone, not answering their mobile phone or forgetting their mobile phone. Not exactly very sophisticated.
On the other hand if Mark Haddon really is ten years old I'm changing my rating to four stars. It's just that I'd always thought that writers were supposed to write well. I was wrong. Clearly.
Profile Image for Lisa.
977 reviews3,327 followers
August 3, 2016
Disappointing after beautifully sad and engaging "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time". Could not relate to the characters. Too many loose and shallow threads leading nowhere in particular. Or maybe just not my kind of book. Expectations too high because I loved the "Curious Incident"?
A book for lazy summer days, but not for the rest of the year when work, family and social obligations turn every hour in the reading chair into rare golden time.
On the other hand, there are so many books out there that I CRAVE to read, I wonder why I have the compulsion to finish books I do not fully engage in?
Profile Image for Erin.
2,960 reviews485 followers
November 22, 2017
It's official, Mark Haddon and I just don't mesh. He's not for me! But to be fair, I won't rate this because it is really just me. Others seem to be drawn to his writing, but I just am not a fan.
Profile Image for Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer.
1,777 reviews1,263 followers
October 17, 2019
In many ways a very easy reading story of an ordinary middle class family living in a village outside Peterborough, by the author of the outstanding “Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time”.

George has recently retired and married to Jean, who is (as he discovers without her knowledge after aborting a trip away) having an affair with his old colleague David. Their daughter Katie having been left with a hyperactive son Jacob by her first husband Graham announces her engagement to the dependable Ray (seemingly a working class ex rugby player, who her family dislike as being not intelligent enough for her and who Katie herself is not sure she loves so much as depends on). Ray realises over time that Katie doesn’t really love him and walks out when he finds her chatting to Graham, before returning to her. Their (unacknowledged although known by them) gay son Jamie is unwilling to commit to a relationship with a builder Tony and his reluctance to invite him to the wedding causes Tony to walk out (although he comes back part way through the wedding). George discovers a lesion on his leg which he is convinced is cancerous even though assured it is eczema and begins a descent into a form of madness where he alternates between lethargy and panic attacks over his fear of death. His family – particularly Jean – try to rationalise and ignore his behaviour even when he ends up in hospital after hacking the flesh off his leg. The book culminates in the wedding where George attacks David.

The easy reading style and examination of the issues of madness and (mis)communication are links with the previous book – but this story is very unremarkable and gave me little insight into George’s true state of mind or world-view which is a huge contrast to its predecessor..
Profile Image for Maxine (Booklover Catlady).
1,305 reviews1,235 followers
December 23, 2021
This book is an excellent read, the witty one liners and dry humour interwoven makes for a very funny read at times. What's clever is that it's also poignant, heartfelt and sad at the same time, very clever writing. Highly recommended if you need something on the lighter side in between other books. I loved the characters, especially George whom I now want to adopt as my Grandad.
Profile Image for Ms.pegasus.
703 reviews138 followers
June 27, 2022
The Hall Family is falling apart. Hearing the separate viewpoints of its members, one can only conclude that this is a normal state of affairs. However, the succession of miscues, navel gazing, obsession with appearances, and self-inflicted awkwardness transform this domestic drama into an entertaining farce, a well-written and welcome escape from reality.

George, dutiful though reticent husband has just retired. Plenty of time to think. Think about what? Well, for starters he discovers a small lesion on his thigh. It's downhill from there. The doctor assures him its merely eczema. George concludes the doctor is wrong. No need to get a second opinion. George knows it's the end! Nightmarish scenes of hypochondria follow. That famous English reserve he has spent a lifetime cultivating is demolished in an of orgy of anxiety attacks intensified by the meltdowns of other family members.

Jean, his wife, is having a clandestine affair with David, George's ex-colleague. Uncharacteristically, George impulsively invites David over for dinner after running into him at a funeral. Nothing like a funeral to inspire an instinct to circle the wagons. If Jean was ruing the lack of excitement in her life, she will be getting plenty as the narrative unfolds.

Their daughter Katie had already made one mistake. She had a child with charming, handsome, vapid Graham. Graham left. She is raising the child Jacob on her own and planning to marry Ray whom everyone in the family considers unsuitable (for Katie or for them?), but pretends they're not thinking that. Given their own problems, it's a bit smug to deride Ray's bulky size, and obvious working class background.

Finally, the son, Jamie, is gay. His lover Tony becomes fed up when Jamie insists that Tony not accompany him to Katie's wedding, and leaves him. That abandonment sends Jamie into his own tailspin.

All of this unfolds with understated humor. The characters flounder between what they feel and what they think they are supposed to feel. The one source of sanity in all of this mayhem is the much maligned Ray.

I enjoyed this book immensely. Haddon has created an ensemble of clueless but sympathetic characters.

Profile Image for Cheri.
1,743 reviews2,271 followers
November 5, 2007
Like most everyone else, I read this after reading "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time" - which I loved. It's not that I expected this to be anything like that, but I wanted to see how this would compare. With the former story, most of it is written through the thoughts of Christopher, a young teen with autism. A Spot of Bother is more a journey through the days of a somewhat typically dysfunctional family, with the father -George- going through an emotional crisis which leads his thoughts into periodic downward spirals. Haddon excels in handling these voyages into the swift descent from reality with gentle humor, while juggling this with the rest of his family's crises. A good read.
Profile Image for ❀Aimee❀ Just one more page....
443 reviews93 followers
April 5, 2015
After Curios Dog, I was eager to read another book by the same author. I couldn't identify with the characters at all. I found myself wanting to shake some sense into them. I know characters shouldn't be perfect, but come on! I made myself finish it. While it does delve into the thought process of someone with acute anxiety and fear and irrational thought (that was a bit interesting), the rest I just couldn't stand.
Profile Image for Chandré Louw.
98 reviews16 followers
September 22, 2017
I went back to compare some of my older 3-star reviews and decided to drop this one down 1 star based on that.

It wasn't good. It wasn't bad.
It was just *shrugs* ..meh.

George reminded me of Harold Fry in The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry , a character with whom I could not connect at all. Feeble, weak and unresponsive to surroundings (had a bit more balls though).

Apparently books about retired old men are really not my thing.

Mark Haddon does deserve some credit as his book was easy to read and did seem all the while to be leading up to something.

Somewhat of an anticlimactic ending with none of the answers I had been looking for.

It wasn't good. It wasn't bad.
It was just *shrugs* ..meh.
Profile Image for Olethros.
2,617 reviews429 followers
October 28, 2017
-Totalmente de acuerdo con el título, la verdad.-

Género. Novela.

Lo que nos cuenta. En el libro Un pequeño inconveniente (publicación original: A Spot of Bother, 2006) conoceremos a George, jubilado británico con una enorme vida interior que no es distinguible desde fuera. George siente que tiene un cáncer que acabará con su vida, aunque su médico le diga que es un eccema, y que dejará desolada a su familia. Su esposa tiene una aventura que la hace lucir hermosa y segura de sí misma otra vez, su hija Katie va a casarse de nuevo y con alguien que George no estima oportuno y su hijo Jaime no quiere casarse pero no podría, aunque quisiera, porque los matrimonios gays no están permitidos en el Reino Unido de esa época. George cree que extirpándose él mismo el cáncer todo se solucionará.

¿Quiere saber más de este libro, sin spoilers? Visite:

Profile Image for Emma.
280 reviews44 followers
December 5, 2020
I'm not sure why this book has so many negative reviews, I loved it. It is a story from the perspective of 4 people- a retired couple and their two adult children, and largely deals with a mental health crisis in the family, while the other characters struggle with relationshio drama. I thought the novel was funny but dealt with anxiety in a believable way. I liked all of the characters, but my favourite was Jamie, the adult son. He was just a very normal and capable bloke.

4.5 stars for me, I really enjoyed it.
Profile Image for Helen (Helena/Nell).
136 reviews115 followers
July 12, 2010
First (for me) there was The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. I still remember how I cried at the end, wept buckets, loved it. Then there was the book of poetry, The Talking Horse and the Sad Girl and the Village Under the Sea. Great title. What was inside did little for me. And now, remaindered, hard-back, handsome, A Spot of Bother.

Expectations were lowered after the damp-squib poetry. Perhaps that was good because very quickly this novel started to delight me. It’s all relationships, all relationships in one family in which the central character (57 year old George – same age as me), is going potty, partly because of his fear of death and mostly because he walks in on his wife in bed with a former colleague. Such a possibility has simply never occurred to him and he doesn’t even tell them what he’s seen. It makes him profoundly sad – sad about his whole life and his place in the universe. His reaction, which looks to all intents and purposes like lunacy, is actually perfectly logical.

Meanwhile, there’s his daughter Katie, about to get married for the second time and not sure whether or not she loves the bridegroom (though she undoubtedly adores her son from her first marriage), and Jamie, the gay son who nearly loses the first partner he has ever loved simply because he hasn’t learned how to do relationships. And there’s David, the man George’s wife is ‘shagging’ (but it’s more than that). All these relationships having ups and downs. Short chapters. Poignant, memorable moments. Several times I was crying again, though lots of this is also funny.

Haddon is good at getting you inside the heads of each of the characters in turn – right inside. Jean, who is so surprised to find herself having this affair (“Something people did on television”) and trying to work out what’s missing in her life: “She washed up her sandwich plate and stacked it in the rack. The house seemed suddenly rather drab. The sale round the base of the taps. The cracks in the soap. The sad cactus.”

It’s simple, good, satisfying writing. The pace builds. You get more and more involved. The plot centres on Katie’s wedding – will it or won’t it happen? Will Jamie’s lover, Tony, actually appear? Will George run away (he does his damnedest)? Will Jean end up with George, or David?

The climax—and it is a sort of comic climax—you can see this as a film—is Katie’s wedding. Up to this point I was loving this book, identifying with each of the characters in turn and gradually working out that George really was the hero.

The final dénouement when George has it out with David is the point where the novel failed for me. By this time I expect my expectations were too high. I wanted something out of the ordinary to happen and I hadn’t quite seen that Haddon had dropped David’s point of view entirely as George’s took up more and more emotional space. George is the ‘Christopher’ of this book (never any doubt who you’re inside in the Curious Incident). I hadn’t quite seen that the novel was going to end up thunk in the middle of familyness: all these people who love each other, with the homosexual couple simply as a slight variation on the norm, decisions being possible to secure emotional ‘rightness’, the uncertainty and the madness a sort of passing phase.

I like this novel. I like it a lot. But the ending is not profound. It is just okay. One other slight reservation was when each relationship reaches its intensest moment, compare the language Jamie and Tony get with what’s accorded to Katie and Ray:

“Jamie just pulled him close and snogged him in the middle of the dancefloor for the whole three minutes and three whole minutes of Tony’s cock pressed against him was more than he could actually bear and he was drunk enough by now, so he pulled Tony upstairs and told him not to make any noise or he’d kill him and they went into this old bedroom and Tony fucked him in full view of Big Giraffe and the boxed set of Doctor Dolittle.”

“He lifted her head and put a finger on her lips to stop her speaking and kissed her. It was the first time they had kissed properly in weeks.

He led her upstairs and they made love until Jacob had a nightmare about an angry blue dog and they had to stop rather quickly.”

Katie and Ray make love. For the boys, Jamie gets a magnificent fuck. Hm. I do see, putting them together, that both sexual experiences are set against a sort of comical and appealing reality of innocence and childhood (Big Giraffe and angry blue dog). And I guess it all depends what you’re trying to do in a novel. This one does have something to say about the difficulty of relationships and how the word ‘love’ doesn’t always seem to match whatever it is you have – and still whatever it is you have may be the right thing, the loving thing.

But it pushes a little bit farther than that, I think, and then draws back at the end in favour of a neat pattern, a good structure, a satisfactory ending. I’m glad I read it though, and I want to see what Haddon does next.

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