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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 cracling prose and bittersweet insights into misdirected love.

Unnoticed in the uproar caused by his daughter’s controversial nuptials, sixyt-one-year-old George Hall 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 distrubring yet amusing portrait of a dignified man trying to go insane politely.

Are you familiar with the term “you can’t choose your family?” I am. And I am reminded of it every time I’m forced to attend dinners, parties, funerals–and the absolute worst: weddings.

(Just a reminder, happily married aunts and uncles, single people don’t like being reminded that they’re single. And for the record, having “you’ll find someone” said to you just makes the situation all the more sad.)

This, I think, is one of the reasons why I related so much to Mark Haddon’s A Spot of Bother, where everything starts falling apart for the Hall family when daughter Katie announces she’s marrying again–to a man no one thinks is right for her.

When I bought the book, and before I started reading it, I thought the whole thing would be told from the perspective of George, the person who is “trying to go insane politely”. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the point-of-view revolves around the four members of the Hall Family.

I’m not always a fan of multiple perspectives when it comes to books. I like having an anchor when reading, not minding if I don’t know what’s happening somewhere else because it makes me feel all the more involved in the fictional (or non-fictional) world I’m reading. But with A Spot of Bother, I thought the fact that the point-of-view went around the main characters made them feel more complete, more real–more complex.

Characters lie. When you read a book with a perspective, your main character is always described with rose-tinted glasses. Sure, they can be flawed–who likes perfect protagonists anyway? But they’re always doing things that are explainable. But that’s not the case in A Spot of Bother.

When we’re reading with George, we see him as a man who just wants to be a better father than his dad; someone who likes the quiet, and for life to be as uneventful as possible. But when we switch to Jean, the wife, we see him as someone who doesn’t appreciate having a wife. From Katie’s point-of-view, he’s someone who never cared–because he’s always so reserved. And for son Jamie, George is someone who can never understand what it is to be gay–and to be happy about being gay.

Having met George through these points-of-view, he is suddenly more than just someone who wants to be a better dad. We see the life choices he made, the mistakes he will commit–we really get to know George. And while we root for him not “to go insane politely”, we’re also wishing that he’d make an effort to save his family.

Reading A Spot of Bother, I find that I like the book a lot for its character studies. Mark Haddon populated the book with almost stereotypes, but gives each character such color that you feel you’re reading about actual people.

And as for the story… Well, it serves its purpose. It takes these five characters who could’ve been one-dimensional and boring, takes them on a journey, and makes them realize that sometimes doing the polite thing just doesn’t cut it.

A highly enjoyable quick read.

Jason Lim blogs at Blurred Lights.

A year ago today Stephanie and I were married in the small village of Oranmore outside of Galway city. It was a beautiful day, shared with family and friends (also the sun deigned to visit us as well).

Next Friday we will renew our vows so that relatives who were unable to attend our original wedding, what with being on the other side of the world and all, can join us in publically declaring our love for one another a second time.

Over the past few months I have made the acquaintance, and even developed some friendships, with a number of other bloggers. I had a nightmare vision of rushing home from my second wedding reception to publish that day’s review, so to avoid such an undignified event I sent out a request to some of the wonderful folk I have met through ‘A Book A Day…’

This is the email I sent –

I have a big favour to ask. See on April 15, almost one year after Stephanie and I were married, we have decided to hold a renewal ceremony so that our friends and family here in Australia can attend. Last time we did the deed in Galway and that’s quite a ways away from the placid surroundings of Bulli New South Wales.

Now weddings take time to arrange, much random things can occur, so I thought keeping to my usual schedule of a book a day would prove difficult. We never expected that it would take this long, which was one of the reasons we delayed having a ceremony like this until it became obvious we would be passing our first wedding anniversary.

What I propose is this. I am asking for each of you to write a review on a book of your choosing and forward it on to me before the end of the month. I do not expect you to stick to the same restrictions as myself, so no worries, this is not meant to be a speed-reading gamut. Also write as much as you want, totally up to you. I will schedule the reviews as a series of ‘guest reviewers’, on the site. If you have a blog of your own or a project you wish to promote, this could be a platform for you. In the introduction to each piece you could say a few words about yourself and describe what it is you produce.

Never fear, there is no pressure here with this request. I am going to be mailing a large number of fellow book lovers and bloggers, so if this proposal is not feasible for you I understand.

Just send me a mail to this address stating whether or not you’re interested. Either way, cheers for your support of the blog, it’s been great fun for me to write.

Hoping to hear from you soon.

The kindness and enthusiasm of the responses I received really touched my heart. My inbox is now full with reviews from all over the world, from Australia to Korea, Scotland across to my old stomping grounds in Dublin. I do not have words to express my gratitude.

Below I am listing the order of these ‘guest blogger’, reviews, which will be starting from tomorrow.

My thanks to everyone who is taking part – Stephanie and I are going to enjoy the rest.

Saturday 9 April – Jason Lim from Blurred Lights

Sunday 10 April – Stacey from Word of Mouse

Monday 11 April – Ryan from Geek of Oz

Tuesday 12 April – Colin from Too Busy Thinking About My Comics

Wednesday 13 April – Ruairi from Seven Towers Books

Thursday 14 April – Colin from It’s Bloggerin’ Time!

Friday 15 April – Oran Ryan

 

 

So there I was, minding my own business, when Lori from TNBBC’s The Next Best Book Blog threw me a cyberspace lifeline. Namely – this:

 

I really appreciate the gesture and am interested in how the Award allows recipients to promote other bloggers, that folk may not have had a chance to enjoy. So here are the rules for recipients. (And sorry Lori, I’m just going to copy and paste from your post here) –

  • Thank and link back to the person who awarded you this award
  • Share 7 things about yourself
  • Award 10 recently discovered great bloggers
  • Contact these bloggers and tell them about the award!

Right so I think I have scratched the first item off the list – although if I haven’t made myself clear enough Lori, I really appreciate your support of the blog, many thanks – so seven things about yours truly.

  1. My party piece is singing ‘Springtime for Hitler’ from The Producers.
  2. I watched the entire first season of ’24’, in a single sitting. My brain was so traumatised by the experience, I was deluded into a feeling of excitement when Lou Diamond Philips appeared onscreen.
  3. I wore blue Converse shoes to my own wedding.
  4. My drink of choice is Bundaberg Ginger Beer.
  5. The perfect book is Hope Mirlees’ Lud-in-the-Mist.
  6. For my German oral exam I recited the ‘One Ring’, verse from J.R.R. Tolkien’s Der Herr Der Ringe!
  7. Brussels is my favourite city, as it has everything I enjoy – good food, comics and beer.

Right so, and now a list of blogs I have discovered recently.

TNBBC  itself of course, which is an excellent site for promoting both bloggers and independent publishers.

It’s Bloggerin’ Time a fine account of all things comic-book-y.

Teatime Brutality a sadly defunct blog, or so it seems, that features some amazing and impassioned writing about fandom. His account of the meaning behind Grant Morrison’s sprawling Final Crisis series is reason enough to trawl through the archive.

Word of Mouse Book Reviews Blogging affords us not only the opportunity to write about what we enjoy, but to meet other writers with similar interests. Since I began writing for this site Stacey at ‘Word of Mouse’, has been a constant support, even organising a ‘cultural exchange’, of Canadian/Australian fiction. This is a great site for reviews of children’s fiction.

The Geek of Oz Another comic book site (what? I’m a nerd!) with a particular focus on Marvel Comics. I am eagerly awaiting the review of Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer’s Australian gig.

Too Busy Thinking About My Comics A comic book review site that takes the time to really discuss the many aspects of this much derided medium. A real revelation and one of my favourite discoveries this year.

the Little Red Reviewer Is another blog I discovered through the comments function of this site. A fellow book blogger, though with better taste in reading material than myself.

Graeme’s Fantasy Book Review Fantasy got me first addicted to reading and it’s a crutch I never fully gave up on. Graeme’s reviews remind me why.

Several Deadly CINEs Film discussion written with dry humour and passion.

Primate Typings Get ready for the monkey invasion….I meant ape, I MEANT APE!! (‘thunk’)

The Comely Banking Crisis If I could choose to return to anywhere in the world, it would be my second home away from home Edinburgh. Still an Athens of the North, this blog is an account of all the cultural happenings in the ‘Burgh.

Blurred Lights Tv, book, film reviews – this site has it all, courtesy of genial blogmeister Jason.

And that’s it from me. Check these folks out, drop ’em a line and let them know how special they are.

Later peoples.  

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