01 September 2007

Spot of Bother by Mark Haddon

I read Mark Haddon’s already acclaimed debut novel, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, a few years ago and found it to be one of the most interesting books I read in years. Plus, it was damn funny, in that English stiff upper lip sort of way.

In his follow-up novel, Haddon takes the same approach as he did with his first, but instead of detailing the inner world of an autistic teenager, he takes on a recent retiree named George Hall who exhibits all the trademarks of men who find that once they have to deal with their wife and family 24/7, that they almost would welcome death as a good friend. Also, George is a man who cannot articulate his problems, because, well, that would not be right.

Still, convinced a bit of eczema on his hip is cancer, George goes into a tailspin, just as family situations become even greater than one can think of. This laugh-out loud slice of domestic life is wonderfully realized by Haddon, and it zips along from one major family problem to George’s increasing morbid fascination with death. There is some deft comic touches here, and while there are no big surprises here, and you know how it will end, Haaddon’s ability to create real characters with real problems is a talent little seen in today’s fiction.

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