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A Spot of Bother [Hardcover]

Mark Haddon
3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (229 customer reviews)

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Book Description

31 Aug 2006

George Hall doesn't 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 fifty-seven, George is settling down to a comfortable retirement, building a shed in his garden, reading historical novels, listening to a bit of light jazz. Then Katie, his tempestuous daughter, announces that she is getting remarried, to 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 former 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 Mark Haddon's disturbing yet very funny portrait of a dignified man trying to go insane politely.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Jonathan Cape; First Edition edition (31 Aug 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0224080466
  • ISBN-13: 978-0224080460
  • Product Dimensions: 16.5 x 24.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (229 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 347,813 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Mark Haddon is an author, illustrator and screenwriter who has written fifteen books for children and won two BAFTAs. His bestselling novel, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, was published simultaneously by Jonathan Cape and David Fickling in 2003. It won seventeen literary prizes, including the Whitbread Award. His poetry collection, The Talking Horse and the Sad Girl and the Village Under the Sea, was published by Picador in 2005, and his last novel, The Red House, was published by Jonathan Cape in 2012. He lives in Oxford.

Product Description


"A painful, funny, humane, novel: beautifully written, addictively
readable and so confident…"
-- The Times

"Haddon floats insights – sculpted, delicate and precise as origami – on currents of offbeat wit." -- Jennie Renton, Sunday Herald

"a convincing, if blackly comic, study of suburban life"
-- The Good Book Guide

"perfect medicine – easy to swallow, a touch formulaic, but nipping the nerve and hitting the truth" -- Tom Adair, Scotsman

"simultaneously riotously funny, profoundly insightful and deeply poignant" -- Julie Wheelwright, Scotland on Sunday

Chosen by Mark Gatiss.
-- The Sunday Herald Books of the Year.

`A delight to read... touching and genuinely funny'
-- Word Magazine, 19 October, 2006

bleakly funny
-- Metro - Best Fiction of 2006

Book Description

The most keenly awaited book of the year - the brilliant new novel by the author of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
46 of 46 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Touching and funny. 16 Feb 2007
The central character of 'A Spot Of Bother' is George Hall, a 57-year-old man from Peterborough, recently retired and a touch overwhelmed by his newly discovered wealth of free time. Other people we meet and follow are George's wife Jean, who is having an affair with one of George's ex-co-workers; their son Jamie, who is having relationship problems of his own; and their daughter Katie who is about to get married to Ray, a man none of the family are sure about and who Katie does not appear to be madly in love with. The book's narrative follows one character at a time, allowing the reader to see events from everyone's point of view.

Plot-wise, the book it pretty simple - Katie and Ray are to get married at George and Jean's home, and everything must be organised - Jamie has to patch things up with his boyfriend, Katie has to decide whether she really wants to get married ... and George catches Jean with her lover, fears he is dying of cancer and thus begins to go mad.

Haddon's genius is to occupy the minds of the different characters in an entirely believable (and readable) manner, from the doubts of Katie's impending marriage to Jamie's love for his partner to the madness of King George, the head of the family. It's a difficult book to put down once begun, and although a light read on some levels nonetheless satisfying - the stand-out sections being those eloquent yet terrifying descriptions of George's descent into madness.
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116 of 122 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Curiously Good Second Novel 11 Sep 2007
Mark Haddon, damn him, has written a second novel which is better than the first. It isn't LIKE the first one, the Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, so ignore the reviewers below who seem to think that like a brand name, an author's name should guarantee an identical experience every time. This time Haddon approaches a superficially ordinary family, perhaps like yours or mine, and goes into the little crises and difficulties which make family life so hard to bear. Dad may be an alcoholic, may be a hypochondriac, may be going mad.... you make your own decision as you read his narrative of the family going through weddings, arrivals and departures, illnesses and just day to day coping. But the style is distinctively, freshly, hilariously Haddon and very recognisable as the work of the same hand.
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27 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent follow-up 26 Oct 2006
As one of many readers who admired The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night Time I was keen to read this book yet aprehensive that it would disappoint. Thankfully it did not and although the book seems initially to be completely different in theme and style both books share the authenticity of their characters, the realism of their domestic setting and the sympathetic yet humorous treatment of a medical condition, in this case depression. George Hall is politely going mad whilst trying not to inconvenience his family. His wife Jean has embarked on a reasonably satisfying affair with his old work colleague David, daughter Katie is about to marry unsuitable husband number two, Ray and they are all trying to deal sensitively with son Jamie who is having commitment issues with his long term boyfriend Tony. All this inevitably comes to a head on the day of the ill-fated wedding. This is a thoroughly enjoyable and thought provoking book with George showing quiet heroism whilst coping with a very well mannered bout of mental illness. The plot is a little contrived, perhaps even slapstick at times yet despite this A Spot of Bother is ultimately very funny and confronts real issues and situations with which we can all empathise.
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52 of 57 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Spot On! 12 Sep 2006
This is a startling book which leaves a strong aftertaste. And that's surprising really, because there is nothing new or out of the ordinary here.

The power of the novel comes from the fact that everyone reading it will surely be able to identify some aspect of their own behaviour or that of someone they know or have known. The book consists of 140 odd very short chapters and this works well, actually driving you on to read "just one more." To my surprise, I've just finished this in less than two days but it really is that compelling.

The style is very easy and it flows well. Each chapter views things from the standpoint of one of the main characters and there is some overlap between the narration of events, so that the reader can determine the subtle differences in the way the same words or actions appear to different individuals.

Most stunning of all is the author's ability to put himself inside the thoughts of some very different characters of widely diverse ages and backgrounds. The understanding shown of the effects of retirement and late middle age, and the physical / mental damage caused by depressive illness is a triumph of observation and empathy.

None of this makes the book sound much fun but it is. It is simultaneously sad , uplifting and very, very funny. Overall, it is that rare beast, a literary novel which is also a page - turner. Order it now - you'll want to have the hardback to keep!
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49 of 54 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars I laughed the whole way through 11 Jun 2007
Hillarious! Couldn't put it down. I don't give it five stars, because this book is LOADED with schmaltz, but it was the funniest thing I have read in ages. Even to the point of laughing out loud, to my wife's annoyance. I enjoyed it as much as Haddon's more famous "The Curious Incident ..."

The four members of his family are outwardly normal, leading conventional lives, but their personal crises are all brought together in a fast-paced farce. Haddon is very good at drawing out his characters. You are bound recognise aspects of them in yourself or others around you. Pain, swearing, sexual escapades and a surprising yet believable sequence of events are interspersed with the jokes right from the off. This is a much more sophisticated read than a summary of the plot can convey.

The chapters dealing with George's (the father) crises were to my (perhaps twisted) mind the funniest. For me the humour came from seeing how his tortured logic and thinking processes produced behaviour which seemed normal to him, but outrageous to those around him.

George fears that he is suffering from either a nervous breakdown or from depression. In fact, although his behaviour is shocking, given the devastating circumstances George must confront, the reader feels some empathy for his position, even respect for his responses.

It will have you turning the pages quickly and not wanting to be disturbed till you finish, and then that feeling you get at the end of a good book, satisfaction tempered with disappointment that there is no more to be had.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars This would make an excellent film
The last scene of this book would make an iconic memorable scene, in fact I had to stop several times as I was reading it as I laughed so much, something I haven't had to do... Read more
Published 1 day ago by Deborah Neal
4.0 out of 5 stars An entertaining read
Made me smile and a little thoughtful.
George takes his concerns to the edge and challenges all his family. Emotions run high as the story unfolds.
Published 4 days ago by Samantha Hudson
4.0 out of 5 stars A Spot Of Bother
I really enjoyed the black humour in this book. It did lapse a bit about three quarters of the way through. All in all a good holiday read
Published 4 days ago by Kim
5.0 out of 5 stars an easy read...very entertaining!
I finished this book in a week. It made me laugh out loud in places. A must read for the hols.
Published 5 days ago by Clare Lamb
3.0 out of 5 stars Out, Out, Damn Spot!
It isn’t “Curious Incident” by any means; but Haddon returns with a comic, yet relevent look at family relationships, ageing, and fear. Read more
Published 9 days ago by Valerie L. Pate
4.0 out of 5 stars Slight but entertaining
Mark Haddon is best known for his seminal novel The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time, and while this effort is nowhere near as original or intriguing, it is still a... Read more
Published 23 days ago by Scaroth, Last of the Jagaroth
5.0 out of 5 stars Fun Book
A great book and well written, stories with something to make you think but funny at the same time. I'm always checking for new books by Mark Haddon
Published 25 days ago by Mola
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read and wonderful insight into mental health
I'm not great at reading books cover to cover. I read this as part of a book club that I joined. After reading The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time (the books are not... Read more
Published 1 month ago by K. Thomas
3.0 out of 5 stars A book club read
nice to get different characters viewpoints, first time reading this Author and know very little about him not a book I'd reccomend found it a hard read
Published 1 month ago by Joycee
5.0 out of 5 stars laugh and cry
This had me laughing and crying - what a poignant tale. Loved itand woudl recommend it to anyone who is interested in people.
Published 2 months ago by Sisi
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