A Spot of Bother: A Novel by Mark HaddonA Spot of Bother: A Novel by Mark Haddon

A Spot of Bother: A Novel

byMark Haddon

Paperback | August 14, 2007

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George Hall is an unobtrusive man. A little distant, perhaps, a little cautious, not quite at ease with the emotional demands of fatherhood or of manly bonhomie. “The secret of contentment, George felt, lay in ignoring many things completely.” Some things in life can’t be ignored, however: his tempestuous daughter Katie’s deeply inappropriate boyfriend Ray, for instance, or the sudden appearance of a red circular rash on his hip.

At 57, George is settling down to a comfortable retirement, building a shed in his garden and enjoying the freedom to be alone when he wants. But then he runs into a spot of bother. That red circular rash on his hip: George convinces himself it’s skin cancer. And the deeply inappropriate Ray? Katie announces he will become her second husband. The planning for these frowned-upon nuptials proves a great inconvenience to George’s wife, Jean, who is carrying on a late-life affair with her husband’s ex-colleague. The Halls do not approve of Ray, for vague reasons summed up by their son Jamie’s observation that Ray has “strangler’s hands.” Jamie himself has his own problems — his tidy and pleasant life comes apart when he fails to invite his lover, Tony, to Katie’s wedding. And Katie, a woman whose ferocious temper once led to the maiming of a carjacker, can’t decide if she loves Ray, or loves the wonderful way he has with her son Jacob.

Unnoticed in the uproar, George quietly begins to go mad. The way these damaged people fall apart — and come together — as a family is the true subject of Haddon’s hilarious and disturbing portrait of a dignified man trying to go insane politely.

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. Once again, Haddon proves a master of a story at once hilarious, poignant, dark, and profoundly human. Here the madness — literally — of family life proves rich comic fodder for Haddon’s crackling prose and bittersweet insights into misdirected love.
MARK HADDON is the author of the international bestseller, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time which won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for First Fiction and the Whitbread Book of the Year award. In addition to the recently published The Talking Horse, the Sad Girl, and the Village Under the Sea, a collection of poetry,...
Title:A Spot of Bother: A NovelFormat:PaperbackDimensions:368 pages, 8.02 × 5.17 × 0.8 inPublished:August 14, 2007Publisher:Doubleday CanadaLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0385662440

ISBN - 13:9780385662444


Rated 4 out of 5 by from Very good characters Compelling character development, felt like these were people I knew
Date published: 2018-08-22
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Feels very real This felt less like reading a novel and more like hanging out with regular people.
Date published: 2018-01-05
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Relatable I loved how Haddon is able to make the characters seem so dramatic, yet relatable.
Date published: 2017-11-27
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Well written Another well-written book by Mark Haddon. I have started to enjoy Mark Haddon's writing because of "Incident of the dog in the night-time". He has done an excellent job with "A spot of bother" - interesting storyline, crisp writing and convincing multiple third person point-of-view. I really don't mind reading it again.
Date published: 2017-08-01
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Well written Another well-written book by Mark Haddon. I have started to enjoy Mark Haddon's writing because of "Incident of the dog in the night-time". He has done an excellent job with "A spot of bother" - interesting storyline, crisp writing and convincing multiple third person point-of-view. I really don't mind reading it again.
Date published: 2017-08-01
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Really Enjoyed I found the characters well rounded and uniquely flawed.
Date published: 2016-11-17
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Just painful Simply awful. Did NOT find it funny - painfully or anyotherwise. Terribly disappointing after Dog in the Nighttime. Couldn't even finish it - highly unusual for me. Wasted hours of my life never coming back. Sigh. I am obviously in the minority here.
Date published: 2016-11-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Different! This book was amazing. Its one of those novels that actually makes you laugh out loud, yet it has a seriousness to it. Amazing..read if you have a wacky family...which most of us do :)
Date published: 2011-05-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fantastic! I couldn't have imagined a more zany family. Great read! At some points I couldn't contain the laughter. Can't wait for his next book!
Date published: 2010-04-23
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Does not match up to "Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night" I loved "the Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night" and was hoping for something as funny, and moving. I found this one was a bunch of people who seemed to wallow in self pity or live in their own worlds. I did not enjoy the book at all.
Date published: 2008-10-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from This is no spot of bother I like stories on dysfunctional families. Every family is dysfunctional in one small way or another. Mark Haddon takes this a little further without being exaggerated. Giving personal accounts from the viewpoint of the four members of the family - George, Jean, Katie and Jamie - Haddon paints a disturbing yet powerful picture on a man's slow descend to madness. I panned the book from the beginning (as what could possibly top "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time"?), especially finding it hard to get into the first few chapters. But look beyond it, and what a read! Using George's discovery of a lesion on his hip and Katie's announcement of her marriage as the setting, little secrets and issues each characters faces unravels. Haddon reveals each piece of information bit by bit, keeping the suspense to find out more on the plot, which is surprisingly hilarious, witty, thought-provoking, and perturbing.. First, an autistic child, then a demented elder, what's next?
Date published: 2008-05-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from hilarious I have read The curious incident of the dog in tne night time and I have to say I found this book infinitely more satisfying. A Spot of Bother was fast paced and the characters personalities were true to life. there is a large amount of sarcastic humour and the total dysfunctionality of the Halls family will definitely make you feel better about your own!
Date published: 2008-02-23
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Well written Another well-written book by Mark Haddon. I have started to enjoy Mark Haddon's writing because of "Incident of the dog in the night-time". He has done an excellent job with "A spot of bother" - interesting storyline, crisp writing and convincing multiple third person point-of-view. I really don't mind reading it again.
Date published: 2008-02-01
Rated 4 out of 5 by from What a fun read! I found Haddon's book to be an easy, fast read. I was engaged by Haddon's great writing, his humour and how well he portrays his four main characters - members of an extremely neurotic family. The ending is a bit predictable but is it ever fun!
Date published: 2008-01-19
Rated 3 out of 5 by from I wanted to like it more. I enjoyed this book but I did want to like it more than I did. The review below talks about the father hilariously going insane when he finds a spot on his body that he is convinced is cancer - the doctor says it isn't but that doesn't stop him. I related to closely to the father I think, and was extremely stressed out about him. A lot of the book was supposed to be funny, but I was too worried to enjoy it. I did like the book but I found the father's deterioration horrible not hilarious. But I'm sure others would like it more.
Date published: 2008-01-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A dose of insanity: A Spot of Bother The book A Spot Of Bother by Mark Haddon is Brilliant! I decided that from now on every book written by this Author will be read and the decision is final. He has this talent of describing everything so well that you actually feel you are in the characters heads , you feel what they feel and you see what they see and you relate to every single one even if they were the complete opposite of you. The story is about a dysfunctional family (which family isn’t) and the events surrounding the marriage of the rebel daughter Katie to Ray who is by the family standards just wrong. The book begins with the 61 year old Father George who finds a weird spot on his hip which he is convinced is cancer and he starts slowly but surly and hilariously loosing his mind. The way Haddon describes him loosing his mind is funny and touching and just amusing that you think going crazy is actually fun. The dysfunction is complete with Joan the cheating mother and Jamie the gay brother. I want to just tell you the whole story here but I don’t want to ruin it. Go buy the book and be ready to laugh out loud and be lost and absorbed by this family drama. A must must read, 5/5.
Date published: 2008-01-10

Read from the Book

1It began when George was trying on a black suit in Allders the week before Bob Green’s funeral. It was not the prospect of the funeral that had unsettled him. Nor Bob dying. To be honest he had always found Bob’s locker-room bonhomie slightly tiring and he was secretly relieved that they would not be playing squash again. Moreover, the manner in which Bob had died (a heart attack while watching the Boat Race on television) was oddly reassuring. Susan had come back from her sister’s and found him lying on his back in the center of the room with one hand over his eyes, looking so peaceful she thought initially that he was taking a nap. It would have been painful, obviously. But one could cope with pain. And the endorphins would have kicked in soon enough, followed by that sensation of one’s life rushing before one’s eyes which George himself had experienced several years ago when he had fallen from a stepladder, broken his elbow on the rockery and passed out, a sensation which he remembered as being not unpleasant (a view from the Tamar Bridge in Plymouth had figured prominently for some reason). The same probably went for that tunnel of bright light as the eyes died, given the number of people who heard the angels calling them home and woke to find a junior doctor standing over them with a defibrillator. Then . . . nothing. It would have been over. It was too early, of course. Bob was sixty-one. And it was going to be hard for Susan and the boys, even if Susan did blossom now that she was able to finish her own sentences. But all in all it seemed a good way to go. No, it was the lesion which had thrown him. He had removed his trousers and was putting on the bottom half of the suit when he noticed a small oval of puffed flesh on his hip, darker than the surrounding skin and flaking slightly. His stomach rose and he was forced to swallow a small amount of vomit which appeared at the back of his mouth. Cancer. He had not felt like this since John Zinewski’s Fireball had capsized several years ago and he had found himself trapped underwater with his ankle knotted in a loop of rope. But that had lasted for three or four seconds at most. And this time there was no one to help him right the boat. He would have to kill himself. It was not a comforting thought but it was something he could do, and this made him feel a little more in control of the situation. The only question was how. Jumping from a tall building was a terrifying idea, easing your center of gravity out over the edge of the parapet, the possibility that you might change your mind halfway down. And the last thing he needed at this point was more fear. Hanging needed equipment and he possessed no gun. If he drank enough whiskey he might be able to summon the courage to crash the car. There was a big stone gateway on the A16 this side of Stamford. He could hit it doing 90 mph with no difficulty whatsoever. But what if his nerve failed? What if he were too drunk to control the car? What if someone pulled out of the drive? What if he killed them, paralyzed himself and died of cancer in a wheelchair in prison? “Sir...? Would you mind accompanying me back into the store?” A young man of eighteen or thereabouts was staring down at George. He had ginger sideburns and a navy blue uniform several sizes too large for him. George realized that he was crouching on the tiled threshold outside the shop. “Sir...?”George got to his feet. “I’m terribly sorry.”“Would you mind accompanying me...?”George looked down and saw that he was still wearing the suit trousers with the fly undone. He buttoned it rapidly. “Of course.” He walked back through the doors then made his way between the handbags and the perfumes toward the menswear department with the security guard at his shoulder. “I appear to have had some kind of turn.” “You’ll have to discuss that with the manager, I’m afraid, sir.” The black thoughts which had filled his mind only seconds before seemed to have occurred a very long time ago. True, he was a little unsure on his feet, the way you were after slicing your thumb with a chisel, for example, but he felt surprisingly good given the circumstances. The manager of the menswear department was standing bedside a rack of slippers with his hands crossed over his groin. “Thank you, John.” The security guard gave him a deferential little nod, turned on his heels and walked away. “Now, Mr....” “Hall. George Hall. My apologies. I . . .” “Perhaps we should have a word in my office,” said the manager. A woman appeared carrying George’s trousers. “He left these in the changing room. His wallet’s in the pocket.” George pressed on. “I think I had some kind of blackout. I really didn’t mean to cause any trouble.” How good it was to be talking to other people. Them saying something. Him saying something in return. The steady ticktock of conversation. He could have carried on like this all afternoon. “Are you all right, sir?” The woman cupped a hand beneath his elbow and he slid downward and sideways onto a chair which felt more solid, more comfortable and more supportive than he remembered any chair ever feeling. Things became slightly vague for a few minutes.Then a cup of tea was placed into his hands.“Thank you.” He sipped. It was not good tea but it was hot, it was in a proper china mug and holding it was a comfort. “Perhaps we should call you a taxi.” It was probably best, he thought, to head back to the village and buy the suit another day. 2He decided not to mention the incident to Jean. She would only want to talk about it and this was not an appealing proposition. Talking was, in George’s opinion, overrated. You could not turn the television on these days without seeing someone discussing their adoption or explaining why they had stabbed their husband. Not that he was averse to talking. Talking was one of life’s pleasures. And everyone needed to sound off now and then over a pint of Ruddles about colleagues who did not shower frequently enough, or teenage sons who had returned home drunk in the small hours and thrown up in the dog’s basket. But it did not change anything. The secret of contentment, George felt, lay in ignoring many things completely. How anyone could work in the same office for ten years or bring up children without putting certain thoughts permanently to the back of their mind was beyond him. And as for that last grim lap when you had a catheter and no teeth, memory loss seemed like a godsend. He told Jean that he had found nothing in Allders and would drive back into town on Monday when he did not have to share Peterborough with forty thousand other people. Then he went upstairs to the bathroom and stuck a large plaster over the lesion so that it could no longer be seen. He slept soundly for most of the night and woke only when Ronald Burrows, his long-dead geography teacher, pressed a strip of duct tape over his mouth and hammered a hole through the wall of George’s chest with a long metal spike. Oddly, it was the smell which upset him most, a smell like the smell of a poorly cleaned public toilet which has recently been used by a very ill person, heady and curried, a smell, worst of all, which seemed to be coming from the wound in his own body. He fixed his eyes on the tasseled lampshade above his head and waited for his heart to slow down, like a man pulled from a burning building, still not quite able to believe that he is safe. Six o’clock. He slid out of bed and went downstairs. He put two slices of bread into the toaster and took down the espresso maker Jamie had given them for Christmas. It was a ridiculous gadget which they kept on show for diplomatic reasons. But it felt good now, filling the reservoir with water, pouring coffee into the funnel, slotting the rubber seal into place and screwing the aluminium sections together. Oddly reminiscent of Gareth’s steam engine which George had been allowed to play with during the infamous visit to Poole in 1953. And a good deal better than sitting watching the trees at the far end of the garden swaying like sea monsters while a kettle boiled. The blue flame sighed under the metal base of the coffeemaker. Indoor camping. A bit of an adventure. The toast pinged up. That was the weekend, of course, when Gareth burned the frog. How strange, looking back, that the course of an entire life should be spelled out so clearly in five minutes during one August afternoon. He spread butter and marmalade on the toast while the coffee gargled through. He poured the coffee into a mug and took a sip. It was hair-raisingly strong. He added milk till it became the color of dark chocolate then sat down and picked up the RIBA Journal which Jamie had left on his last visit. The Azman Owen house. Timber shuttering, sliding glass doors, Bauhaus dining chairs, the single vase of white lilies on the table. Dear God. Sometimes he longed to see a pair of discarded Y-fronts in an architectural photograph. “High-frequency constant-amplitude electric internal vibrators were specified for the compaction, to minimize blowholes and to produce a uniform compaction effort . . .” The house looked like a bunker. What was it about concrete? In five hundred years were people going to stand under bridges on the M6 admiring the stains? He put the magazine down and started the Telegraph crossword. Nanosecond. Byzantium. Quiff. Jean appeared at seven thirty wearing her purple bathrobe. “Trouble sleeping?” “Woke up at six. Couldn’t quite manage to drift off again.” “I see you used Jamie’s whatsit.” “It’s rather good, actually,” George replied, though, in truth, the caffeine had given him a hand tremor and the unpleasant sensation you had when you were waiting for bad news. “Can I get you anything? Or are you fully toasted?” “Some apple juice would be good. Thank you.” Some mornings he would look at her and be mildly repulsed by this plump, aging woman with the witch hair and the wattles. Then, on mornings like this...“Love” was perhaps the wrong word, though a couple of months back they had surprised themselves by waking up simultaneously in that hotel in Blakeney and having intercourse without even brushing their teeth. He put his arm around her hips and she idly stroked his head in the way one might stroke a dog. There were days when being a dog seemed an enviable thing. “I forgot to say.” She peeled away. “Katie rang last night. They’re coming for lunch.” “They?” “She and Jacob and Ray. Katie thought it would be nice to get out of London for the day.” Bloody hell. That was all he needed. Jean bent into the fridge. “Just try to be civil.” 3Jean rinsed the stripy mugs and put them onto the rack. A few minutes later George reappeared in his work clothes and headed down the garden to lay bricks in the drizzle. Secretly she was rather proud of him. Pauline’s husband started to go downhill as soon as they handed him the engraved decanter. Eight weeks later he was in the middle of the lawn at 3:00 a.m. with a bottle of Scotch inside him, barking like a dog. When George showed her the plans for the studio it reminded her of Jamie’s plans for that machine to catch Santa Claus. But there it was, at the far end of the lawn, foundations laid, five rows of bricks, window frames stacked under blue plastic sheeting. Seven or fifty-seven, they needed their projects. Bringing something dead back to the cave. Setting up the Wellingborough franchise. A solid lunch, twenty minutes of playtime and gold stars to show that someone was taking notice. She unscrewed the espresso maker and a pat of sodden grounds slumped onto the draining board and disintegrated. “Shit.” She got a disposable cloth wipe from the cupboard. You’d think they were coming back from Vietnam the way some of them talked about retirement. Not a thought for the wives. It didn’t matter how much you loved someone. Thirty-five years of the house to yourself, then you had to share it with... not a stranger exactly . . . She would still be able to see David. With her mornings at the primary school and her part-time job at Ottakar’s bookshop in town, it was simple enough to spend a few extra hours out of the house without George noticing. But it had seemed less of a deception when he was working. Now he was having lunch at home seven days a week and some things were far too close to one another. Luckily he enjoyed having the place to himself, and had precious little interest in what she did when she was elsewhere. Which made it easier. The guilt. Or the lack of it. She rinsed the grit off the cloth wipe, wrung it out and hung it over the tap. She was being unkind. The prospect of Katie coming to lunch probably. Him and Ray being polite when they wanted to lock horns and grapple. George was a decent man. Never got drunk. Never hit her, never hit the children. Hardly ever raised his voice. Only last week she’d seen him drop a monkey wrench on his foot. He just closed his eyes, straightened his back and concentrated, like he was trying to hear someone calling from a very long way away. And only one speeding ticket. Maybe that was the problem. She remembered being jealous of Katie when she got together with Graham. Their being friends. Their being equals. George’s face that suppertime when they were talking about the birth. Graham using the word clitoris and George with this forkful of gammon hovering in front of his open mouth. But that was the trouble with being friends. Graham walks out one day, leaving her to look after Jacob. Which a man like George would never do. He was right about Ray, though. She wasn’t looking forward to lunch any more than him. Thank God Jamie wasn’t coming. One of these days he was going to call Ray “Mr. Potato-Head” in Katie’s hearing. Or Ray’s. And she was going to be driving someone to hospital. Half Katie’s IQ and Ray still called her “a wonderful little woman.” Though he did mend the Flymo that time. Which didn’t endear him to George. He was solid, at least. Which was what Katie needed right now. Someone who knew she was special. Someone with a good salary and a thick skin. Just so long as Katie didn’t marry him.

Bookclub Guide

1. What do you think is the spot of bother of the title? Does every character have a spot of bother, or is it just George?2. Do you think Katie does love Ray? Was she right to marry him?3. Why do you think Jean has an affair? Did this affect your feelings towards her character, and George's?4. Mark Haddon writes about some very serious subjects - mental illness, adultery, prejudice - but often in a humorous way. Would you describe A Spot of Bother as a comedy?5. Why do you think Jamie tells Ray that he loves Tony before he tells Tony himself?6. A Spot of Bother includes several pairings of siblings: Jamie and Katie; Becky and Tony; Ray and Martin; Jean and Eileen. Which are the closest? Are any of their relationships similar to your relationship with your siblings?7. Many of the characters are driven by concerns about loving or being loved by the right people: do you think the characters resolve these issues? Does everyone end up with the right person at the end of the novel?8. Do you think it's fair to say that A Spot of Bother is a very British novel?9. Each character has their own issue to deal with: George's illness; Jean's affair; Katie's wedding; Jamie's feelings towards Tony. Who did you feel the most sympathetic towards? Are their problems self-inflicted?10. What was your favourite moment in the book?

Editorial Reviews

Praise for THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT-TIME“Moving . . . Think of The Sound and the Fury crossed with The Catcher in the Rye and one of Oliver Sacks’s real-life stories.” —Michiko Kakutani, New York Times “Both clever and observant, and the effect is vastly affecting.” —Washington Post Book World “This original and affecting novel is a triumph of empathy.” —The New Yorker “Gloriously eccentric and wonderfully intelligent.” —Boston Globe“Disorienting and reorienting the reader to devastating effect . . . as suspenseful and harrowing as anything in Conan Doyle.” —Jay McInerney, New York Times Book Review“Funny, sad and totally convincing.” —Time“More so than precursors like The Sound and the Fury and Flowers for Algernon, The Curious Incident is a radical experiment in empathy. ” —Village Voice“One of the strangest and most convincing characters in recent fiction.” —Slate