Although I’m a fan of Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, I’ve read and discussed it so many times now (it having been on the curriculum for three years) that I was getting close to throwing it out onto the lawn and thrusting a garden fork of my own through it. That’s nothing against the quality of the writing---I still admire it---but I feel pretty much the same way after dissecting any text for a third or fourth time in a row. Defenestration, followed by impalement.
It was partly this that made me hesitate to pick up A Spot of Bother for several months, which is how long Mark Haddon’s second novel has been sitting on my stack of books. This and the fact that I’d heard a few people declare that A Spot of Bother didn’t live up to Curious Incident. And the fact that, at 503 pages, it was about 300 pages longer than I like a novel to be. All the same, the time felt right recently to pick it up and make a start; but, having started it, it soon became one of those books I didn’t want to put down again. Loved it.
A Spot of Bother doesn’t live up to Curious Incident because it doesn’t need to. Its success lies, in part, in the fact that it’s very different, and is, if anything, more entertaining. Comprising 144 very short chapters, Haddon rotates the point of view in every chapter, exploring the unique perspective of each key character in turn, as events unravel---and unravel they do. They may be soundly dysfunctional, these people whose lives we spy upon, but there’s also something archetypal about them, and I feel sure I’ve met each one in real life. Whilst A Spot of Bother might have a lighter and more frivolous touch to it than Curious Incident, that’s exactly what’s needed here. It’s a wonderfully crafted and satisfying novel, with plenty of wry humour and is certainly a compelling read.