A spot of bother by Mark Haddon

spot_of_bother     I picked up this book primarily as a light-read-on-the-side for my current read , Far From The Madding Crowd . Having heard so much about the author’s debut , of which I couldn’t find a good copy , I got this one at a recent book haul .

Plot summary :

George , at fifty -seven is settling down to a comfortable retirement : undertaking projects around the house like building a studio in his garden , reading historical novels , listening to light jazz & such stuff . Just then , his daughter Katie , had to drop the bombshell : she is planning to get remarried to Ray . The family is not happy with Katie’s choice but they could do nothing more except send subtle hints and signals about how they feel about Katie’s idea . Still , they are getting ready for Katie’s wedding .

In the run-up to the wedding , the following things happen :

Katie is trying to work it out if she actually  loves Ray or loves the way Ray takes care of her son Jacob . She has not been unaware of her family ‘ s disappointment with Ray – a man with strangler’s hands ( as Jamie observes ) who was not like them : a ‘working ‘ man . 

Jamie , her brother , has a fallout with his partner , Tony , when he decides not to invite him for the wedding .

Topping it all off , Jean , her mother , is having an affair with one of George’s ex-colleagues .

In this melee , George discovers a lesion on his hip . With all the chaos around him , he spirals towards madness without anybody suspecting anything .

My thoughts on the book :

The premise of the book looked like a plot of a upcoming-wedding-drama rom-com . An upcoming wedding . Check . The drama in the family / friends-circle in the run-up to the wedding . Check . So , I did not go into the book with too many expectations except for a light prose that enabled quick reading , which was met perfectly . I guess I was still hungover from my previous read and that made the writing seem nothing extraordinary , atleast for the first few chapters . Sometimes , it seemed that the author would capture even the minutest thing like a pin-drop and that was a bit frustrating . But , once I got accustomed to the pace of the book and most importantly , the writing style , I found several things to like  .

Sometimes Haddon packs insightful prose ,  right in the middle of some latest domestic everyday drama , unfolding in George’s house . You wouldn’t recognize these beautiful pieces until you have finished reading one . Then you go back and read it again , a bit slowly the second time around . A sample here – Haddon has loaded it with a good measure of wry ( & probably mildly dark ?? ) humor too .

[. . ] Maybe old people always fooled themselves , pretending that the world was going to hell in a handcart because it was easier than admitting they were being left behind , the future was pulling away from the beach , and they were standing on a little island bidding it good riddance , knowing in their hearts that there was nothing left for them to do but sit around on the shingle waiting for the big diseases to come out of the undergrowth .

Yet another one , where he packs wry humor and insightful prose together ….

[..] until a few years passed and some real questions had been dumped into your lap , like how to earn a living , and why people fell in and out of love , and how long could you carry on smoking and then give up without getting lung cancer .

  Maybe the answers weren’t important . Maybe it was the asking that mattered . Not taking anything for granted . Maybe that’s what stopped you growing old . 

Haddon has captured the everyday scenarios and the mental – makeup of his characters in a simple language very effectively . A phrase I had read once ,  in a well – received suspense book , is still in my memory – ” an archipelago of luggage ” . I returned to it once I had skimmed through it the first time and read it twice / thrice just to get a hang of the words and then the meaning . Yeah , there are authors who want to add a dash of exotic vocabulary / phrasing just to show off their command of the language , I guess . If it is a good one , I ‘ll take it . But , ones like the above hinder the reading and become irritating ( especially if it is in the suspense genre ) . But Haddon doesn’t need newly-minted words to make his novel look good . He does it with simple vocabulary perfectly .

He has also highlighted some everyday instances in the context of “why-we-do-what-we-do ” . Take this one for example :

Jamie got himself a second coffee and reopened Daniel Dennett’s Consciousness Explained , which he bought in one of his periodic fits of self-improvement ( the exercise ball , that stupid opera CD . . . ) . At home he was reading Pet Sematary , but reading that in public was like leaving the house in your underwear .

And there is his humor , page after page , like these :

‘ Katie’s our daughter . We should make sure she’s sent off in style . ‘  Sent off ? It made Katie sound like a ship .

Did they ever go insane , children ? Properly insane , not just handicapped like the Henderson girl ? He was unsure . Perhaps there was not enough brain to malfunction till they reached university .

I could keep pulling off funny one-liners from almost every page . Pick up the book to treat yourself to some good laughs and some great writing .

Highly recommended!! Until the next review then . . .

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