Spot of Bother by Mark Haddon

SOBThis book is generally enjoyable but I felt it was overlong. It can, however, be read in short bursts since most chapters are only three or so pages. All in all, however, it has that feel of a soap opera wedding: something’s bound to go wrong and it does.

One of our members suggested that there were stylistic similarities with the work of David Lodge.

It has a dated feel: Brookside stopped being broadcast a long time ago. Does anyone still buy Zipper magazine?

The key character, George, is well-portrayed: becoming cynical and out of touch as is typical for his age: ‘Human beings were not meant to be sealed into tins and fired through the sky by fan-assisted rockets.’ ‘…things changed. Mobile phones. Thai restaurants’. ‘The human mind was not designed for sunbathing and light novels ‘ He can cope with the notion of sexuality if is between men who have been without the company of women for a long time but is not keen on the thought of them buying furniture: sex without relationship seems preferable to him.

His son, Jamie is grateful that his neighbours are Christians: ‘you could say what you liked about Christians, but they didn’t yodel during sex like the Germans who’d lived there before.’ He enjoys hearing how some people had their clothes stolen at a nudist beach – always carry a rucksack.

There is a sensitive portrait of a gay couple by a straight author and he writes in convincing detail about a mental breakdown and the rational (yet ultimately unsuccessful) planning undertaken to avoid hurting others. The author must have done much research.

The arguing over toothpaste is a realistic portrayal of married relationships, as is the second-best which people settle for when cruising

There is one annoyingly ‘Mills & Boon’ style sentence: ‘she was melting into that dark behind her eyelids, the way butter melted in a hot pan, the way you melted back into sleep after waking up at night, just letting it take you.’ Also, to say that the only thing wrong with celibacy is the lack of sex is somewhat stupid and unfunny.

There is one loose end that annoys me: what happened to the tramp on the railway line?

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