Saturday, October 28, 2006

A Spot of Bother

by Mark Haddon
It's a time-honored dramatic convention: comedy ends in a wedding; tragedy ends in death. Much of the suspense in Mark Haddon's latest book comes from the uneasy sense that the story could go either way. From the start, we follow George Hall, as he and his wife prepare for their daughter's marriage to what could very well be the "wrong man." As upsetting as this is, George has problems of his own: his body, quickly followed by his mind, seems to be slowly coming unglued. He handles this as any British Gentleman would; he keeps it to himself. Of course, losing one's mind is not something one can keep a secret for long. Unlike Haddon's last book, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, his latest book gets into the heads of a wide range of characters. Some of the underlying themes, though, are similar: one's interior life may never be glimpsed, even by those one feels closest to. Everyone has their secrets, and miscommunications, and the exquisite chaos the characters spin around the Big Day is perhaps too neatly resolved. Though not as brilliant or groundbreaking as The Curious Incident, A Spot of Bother is an expertly crafted, enjoyable novel.

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