Saturday, January 3, 2009

Book: A Spot Of Bother

A Spot Of Bother
By: Mark Haddon
Finished: Jan 3, 2009

It's pretty easy to compare A Spot Of Bother to that book by Franzen. It's the story of a tight wound family, with a patriarch who goes off kilter when faced with his own suddenly evident mortality, and seeks pharmacological help. But whereas Franzen provides The Corrections, Haddon offers the constructive criticisms (sorry, I've been thinking about that terrible joke all week). This is a family that despite being stuffy, repressed, and dysfunctional, could still make it work.

For anyone that's come face to face with the surprisingly rapid arrival of the ravages of time, going in the space of a doctor's "well..." from an invincible youth to a fragile conglomeration of barely functioning bellows and sacks held together with brittle bones in a wispy veil of skin, father George Hall's panic attacks and "it seemed like a reasonable idea at the time" reactions to disease are shockingly plausible, as are the family's reactions, ranging from recrimination to intentional blindness.

In some ways, this is a book about how family exists as a structure within society. How one generation must recede so that the next can be built on top of it, using it as a strong or shaky foundation, a chain of hand-offs stretching all the way backwards and forwards.