#36 ~ A Spot of Bother

August 16, 2007 at 4:30 pm | Posted in Books, British Comedy, Culture, Film, LIfe, My Life with Books, Reading, Sexual Identity | 3 Comments
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A Spot of Bother by Mark Haddon

As I was reading this, book I kept wondering to myself why it is that I don’t care for British comedies in film. A British comedy in writing just cracks me up. While I’m sure that I miss many things simply from not being British, a cussing Brit in print makes me smile every time. That happened a lot in this book. Once again, Mark Haddon has written an entirely enjoyable novel that, for me, inspired more than a couple moments of serious and honest introspection.

This novel tells the story of four members of a single family. They are often at odds with each other, but that is mainly because they aren’t sure of who they are or what they want in life. As the family comes together to plan a wedding, all hell breaks loose.

George, the patriarch, is a man who has recently entered his retirement years. While he’s building a studio within which he intends to return to drawing, his life is not tranquil or full of purpose for him. He experiences panic attacks without knowing what they are and fears that he is going insane. Nearly every time he looks at his body he finds cancer. He is settled in his life with Jean, his wife. He does not much care for his daughter’s fiance, but he’s even more disconcerted about his son being a homosexual.

Jean, one of the last generations of women who more often than not made their careers their families, is struggling with her once empty nest once again being populated by her husband. She questions the choices she’d made in her life and is in the middle of a extramarital affair with David, one of George’s ex-colleagues. She is at once happy to be doing something that makes her feel good about herself and terribly guilty over betraying a good, if not boring, husband. She continuously clashes with her daughter while trying to hide her distaste for her future son-in-law. When not arguing with Katie, is wondering how she can accept her son’s lover with open arms while, at the same time, disallow them from sleeping together in her house.

Katie is a single mother to Jacob. Jacob’s father was the love of Katie’s life, but he left her not long into their marriage. In search of stability, she agreed to marry Ray, her live-in boyfriend. Ray, while not as intelligent as she or her family, has a good job, makes great money, loves Jacob as if he was his own, and makes her feel safe and cherished. The trouble is that she’s not sure that she loves him.

Jaime is a successful real estate agent who, while opening gay, has a difficult time with commitment in as much as it requires him to give up control over his life and belongings. He enjoys his relationship with Tony, but he really does not want to bring him to his sister’s wedding. He claims that he doesn’t want Tony to have to deal with his crazy family. The truth is closer to the fact that he does not want to put up with the additional hassle of being an open homosexual with a lover at his side. As much as he is weary of having to justify his life to his family, he believes that his sister is making a grave error and wishes he could pummel some sense into her.

As this family anticipates a wedding that is just as likely to be like an erupting volcano, they are each trying to hide and fix their own problems at the same time. The chaos that engulfs them engulfed me as well. There were aspects of each of their stories that struck a chord with me. Most significantly was reading about George’s panic attacks from his perspective. Don’t get me wrong. Those scenes are written with love, but with humor as well. Still, hearing him say that he couldn’t talk to anyone about what was happening hit me square in the chest. There isn’t anyone you can talk to. When you finally work up the courage to say something, you can see/hear people turn themselves on power saver mode.

I am so happy that I read A Spot of Bother. It’s not often that you find a fun book with a great sense of humor that settles deeper inside of you to be worked out later.

#07 ~ The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

February 10, 2007 at 3:24 pm | Posted in Amazing Narrator, Books, British Comedy, Culture, Family, Reading | 2 Comments
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The Curious Incident of the Dog at Night-Time by Mark Haddon

This book is incredible. It is the story of a high functioning autistic teenage boy who decides to write a book about his attempt to detect who really killed his neighbors dog. The entire book was written from Christopher’s perspective. His narration is poignant and is the perfect way to put you in the mind of an autistic person. Christopher does not like to be touched. To show that they love each other, they open their hands like palming a basketball and touch fingertips. When I think of all the time I spend cuddling my children, I can’t fathom how big a hole parents must feel in their hearts when they can’t be physically affectionate.

It is also interesting to read what non-autistic behavior is interpreted by Christopher. He goes into explanations of white lies and other commonalities of life that will first crack you up and then make you think about what you are subconsciously telling other people.

Christopher gives you full and entirely factual accounts throughout the book. His level of honesty is refreshing and heartbreaking, especially when he is talking about a subject that would tear another child up inside. He just doesn’t understand. Is that good? It definitely has an impact on how Christopher looks at the world.

This book is funny, realistic, and thoroughly enjoyable. I did read quickly through the math equations he worked on to calm himself down in uncomfortable situations. Still, it was interesting that there are people for whom working out such problems makes them feel better. I wish that I knew exactly what I needed to do to relax the way that Christopher does. This book should definitely be on your “to read” list if you haven’t already done so.

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