September 5, 2007

A Spot of Bother

I finished A Spot of Bother this morning. While it's not a keeper, it was an interesting book in that it examined a highly dysfunctional family from all points of view. And of course, nothing brings out dysfunction like a wedding, which took place near the end of the novel.

Here is a review from Publishers Weekly:

Recent retiree George Hall, convinced that his eczema is cancer, goes into a tailspin in Haddon's (Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time) laugh-out-loud slice of British domestic life. George, 61, is clearly channeling a host of other worries into the discoloration on his hip (the "spot of bother"): daughter Katie, who has a toddler, Jacob, from her disastrous first-marriage to the horrid Graham, is about to marry the equally unlikable Ray; inattentive wife Jean is having an affair—with George's former co-worker, David Symmonds; and son Jamie doesn't think George is OK with Jamie's being queer. Haddon gets into their heads wonderfully, from Jean's waffling about her affair to Katie's being overwhelmed (by Jacob, and by her impending marriage) and Jamie's takes on men (and boyfriend Tony in particular, who wants to come to the wedding). Mild-mannered George, meanwhile, despairing over his health, slinks into a depression; his major coping strategies involve hiding behind furniture on all fours and lowing like a cow. It's an odd, slight plot—something like the movie Father of the Bride crossed with Poe's "The Tell-Tale Heart" (as skin rash)—but it zips along, and Haddon subtly pulls it all together with sparkling asides and a genuine sympathy for his poor Halls. No bother at all, this comic follow-up to Haddon's blockbuster (and nicely selling book of poems) is great fun.

I don't think I would have given this book such a glowing review, just because it seemed to be missing something. However, towards the end, there were two kernels of wisdom that accurately described my own wedding experience. Katie and Ray, the newlyweds, have just been subjected to high drama at their reception:

"Katie held Ray's hand. She didn't know whether to laugh or cry. 'God. This is meant to be our wedding day.'
Then Ray said something wise. Which took her by surprise. 'We're just the little people on top of the cake. Weddings are about families. You and me, we've got the rest of our lives together.'"

Wow. I have never heard the wedding experience described so well.

And just when I thought that I couldn't hear anything wiser, I read this paragraph:

"A fine drizzle began spattering the windscreen. It didn't matter. Snow, hail, driving rain. She understood now. You got married in spite of your wedding not because of it. She looked over at Ray and he broke into a smile without taking his eyes off the road."

As simple as it was worded, I would call that fine writing. (Although the grammarian in me would definitely add a comma between "wedding" and "not.")


WeezerMonkey said...

Good find. I would add the comma, too! This, my friend, is why I heart you.

Ignore my deleted comment. It had a typo. The irony.

Brenda said...

Those are indeed words of wisdom. I am so glad that you have shared them. :) Hope to see more about the books you read. I feel like I have no time to read so I shall live vicariously through you! WEEEEE!