Title: A Spot of Bother
Author: Mark Haddon
Page Count/Review Word Count: 503
A Spot of Bother is the second novel by Mark Haddon, the guy who’s most well-known as the author of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. A Spot of Bother isn’t quite as good, but it’s still well worth a read, if only for the eccentricity of protagonist George Hall, a hypochondriac who keeps doing crazy things.
For example, when he develops eczema, he grows convinced that it’s fatal cancer and decides to operate on himself by cutting the affected skin off. As the novel progresses, he develops panic attacks and paranoia, but while it’s obviously a sad story in some ways, it can also be incredibly entertaining – Haddon’s wit is subtle and understated in all of his work, but he’s at his funniest here.
While George is clearly the centre of attention throughout the story, the rest of his family have problems of their own, but I found it difficult to get too interested in their petty problems, and so does George. I guess that’s just another thing that we had in common, and it turns out we share quite a lot of the same fears and insecurities – I imagine that you’ll enjoy the novel more if you share the same traits as the protagonist, but I have no basis for comparison and so I could be wrong.
The actual characterisation here is phenomenal, as it always is in Haddon’s work – I’ve mentioned before that most of his ability as a writer is down to the development of his characters, and also that it often feels as though the plot is insignificant. Here, Haddon’s plot is at its strongest, and it’s a sharp contrast to his other work, like The Red House, in which nothing much really happens. It’s refreshing to see him on form and dabbling with different techniques, and he does it well.
If anything, the main problem here is the length of the novel – it can feel as though chunks of it are unnecessary, almost as though more should be happening when there are that many pages going on. Nevertheless, if you want a novel that you can get lost in for a week or two then you could do much, much worse than this – assuming you’ve already read the Curious Incident, of course.
But overall, it’s a great novel and definitely one that’s worth reading – if I were you, I’d look out for it in charity shops, car boot sales and the like and see if you can grab it for a bargain, because I don’t think I’d recommend paying full price for it. It’s not that it isn’t worth it, it’s just that some other books are, and this one has been around so much that it’s easy to get a used copy for a tenth of the price. That’s how I got my copy of it, after all.