It has become a spot of bother to think of how to begin this book recommendation (Hehehehehehe. Another bad joke).
But moving on, after another bad joke to start another book recommendation, A Spot of Bother by Mark Haddon is one of the funniest, sombre and subtle family dramas I have read. A lot like maybe Kapoor and Sons to anyone who has seen it, but maybe, more dark in its material.
The book focuses on the Hall Family, i.e. George, the hypochondriac (I guess) who is fifty seven year old and thoroughly enjoying his retirement, by working on his studio and being plagued by his thoughts of having cancer and dying and depression. His wife, Jean, who works two jobs in the city and is having an extra marital affair. Their unpredictable daughter Katie who does things just because, has a son Jacob and is getting married a second time. And last, their son, Jamie. Jamie is older than Katie and is gay, with some angst towards his family for not accepting him as he is.
The book is incredibly unique and refreshing. All four Halls are at the centre of the narrative. Each one of them has a distinct storyline, with their issues part of the cohesive while Mark Haddon is telling and the rewards of their storylines are seen in their characters by the end of the book. In essence, this book is about the four characters coming to terms with the situations they have placed themselves in and maturing into their roles and accepting themselves and their family, despite all their faults.
The book is 390 pages, and the most incredible thing is, it has 144 chapters. That’s about 2.73 pages per chapter. Some chapters are as small as half a page and the longest was maybe six pages. Haddon employs such a style because since the narrative focuses around all four Hall characters, whenever Haddon needs to put one of them into focus, the chapter revolves around the said character. Due to the relatively small length of the chapters, it’s often not too long before we go back to each character. The pattern as well is random. There is no, Dad, Mom, Katie, Jamie order. It’s as it is found fitting. Due to this, the book never feels too dragged or boring and the reader can always feel connected to the characters.
This book is also, for me, rare. Because it happens so rarely that you want to keep on reading about the characters and not want the story to end. Even on the last page, the last word even, I wanted Mark Haddon to continue the tale of the Hall’s and how they live the rest of their lives. This is something so rare and incredible, because most books that attempt such a thing become a drag that you want to finish their tales or because most books wrap up so beautifully, it just feels right to let the characters go.
All in all, A Spot of Bother is a hilarious, witty, and overall terrific book that everyone should take the time out to read, because in a way, it is also therapeutic, as the reader can relate so well to the characters, they can find some of their own problems across the four Hall’s and the various supporting characters.