Red Wheelbarrow Book Reviews
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A Spot of Botherby Mark Haddon
I'll start right off by telling you that this is a beautiful book, wise and funny, very english in its understatement, extremely tender with its characters, filled with the sort of detail you can never forget: "The human mind was not designed for sunbathing and light novels" observed George who had an aversion to vacations. As a father, George was not at ease with his homosexual son. "It was the thought of men purchasing furniture together which disturbed him".
The story has nothing in common with the best seller The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, and yet you find in it the same tenderness, the touching insights into human behavior, the small canvas which never takes you away from the family scene and yet takes you deeply into the minds and hearts of the protagonists.
The story revolves around George, his wife Jean, their son Jamie and their daughter Katie, divorced and the mother of Jacob. George and Jean, a provincial middle class couple live in Peterborough, a small town an hour north of London. George Hall, 61, has just retired from a management post for a company that manufactured playground equipment and where," in a modest way, he had increased the happiness of a small part of the human population." George has planned to resurrect his long ago drawing activity, to read historical novels and to build himself a studio at the end of their garden.
So much for the setting. The drama comes with Katie's announcement to her parents and to her brother that she and Ray will get married. This announcement has electrifying consequences for one and all and Mark Haddon is a master of the details by which he shows us the effects of what would seem to be a rather private affair between two adults, on the other members of this far from intimate family.
Every nuance is explored, every feeling is laid bare, all the relationships are minutely examined and exposed. The slow walk through the beginning of our getting to know the Halls, becomes a thriller, a page turner, an extraordinary discovery of every day life and and of the people who learn to live with the drama which all lives entail.
"The secret of contentment, George felt, lay in ignoring many things completely." He was wrong, it turned out.