I have just joyfully chuckled and cried my way to the end of Mark Haddon’s A Spot of Bother. Writers, like Haddon in this book, who can be so perceptive and so articulate about the human condition, about our endearing and exasperating foibles, and deftly set those to paper, have my unbounded admiration. Haddon’s presentation of this family of characters with their immediate partners and acquaintances, who proceed to make an utter hash of their lives and then gradually, with some good management and a whole lot of luck, succeed in largely redeeming themselves, is a treat. The writing is wry and light and quick; the novel is easy to read but substantial as well. The characters compel one’s attention and their stories matter. I wanted to know what was going to happen, and i cared. I guess they were all too familiar and so i was cross with them when they got it wrong [as i would get it wrong in similar circumstances – and one has similar circumstances – this is why one cares and why it is a book worth reading] and cheered when they got it right.
On the front cover of the edition i have is a quotation from the Sunday Telegraph: ‘Brilliant … very funny’. For me this reviewer doesn’t well describe the tone of this novel. Rather, i think other adjectives that appear in quotations on the back cover more accurately describe Haddon’s accomplishment: ‘a painful, funny, humane novel: beautifully written, addictively readable’ [The Times]; ‘wry, warm-hearted and entertaining’ [Daily Telegraph]; ‘witty … subtle’ [Independent on Sunday]. So while i enjoyed The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time [and it also told me quite a lot i didn’t know], this is better. Mark Haddon goes on my list of authors for whom one waits impatiently for their next book.