Tuesday, May 13, 2008
Another good read
I've been reading another book by Mark Haddon, A Spot of Bother. Like his bestseller, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, this is a painfully funny book, the story of family at a turning point, but primarily the story of George. George, fifty-seven, recently retired, is looking forward to a peaceful time of self-fulfilment when his daughter announces that she is about to remarry (her prospective husband has, according to her brother, "strangler's hands"). Said brother, Jamie, fears that to bring his lover Tony to the wedding will expose him to the awfulness that he has so far managed to avoid, and George's wife, Jean, finds her affair with a former colleague of George threatened by all this family activity.
But it is George's problem which preoccupies him and us. For George has discovered a sinister lesion on his hip and - as the blurb puts it - quietly begins to lose his mind. He becomes convinced that his doctor is incompetent and decides to treat himself. The resulting chaos is of an order to leave you simultaneously sniggering helplessly and cringing.
Haddon's style is well suited to this kind of writing. He makes a feature of the short sentence and the one-sentence paragraph, as well as the grammatical non-sentence - features which, once noticed, could irritate but which in this case do not. He has a wonderful way with climax, taking us along a path we know we have to follow without the slightest idea what waits us at the end.
I loved this just as much as The Curious Incident, and probably for the same insight into strange mental states. I almost wish I'd saved it for a holiday.