ISBN: 0 099 45025 9
Genre: General Fiction; psychology
Found by Serendipity
Rating: ***** *****
What led you to pick up this book?
The title; the cover; the fact that it won the Whitbread Book of the Year; and the reviews. As the publishers claim it is "one of those very rare books that change the way you see everything."
Describe the plot without giving anything away.
The narrator, fifteen year old Christopher, suffers from Asperger's Syndrome and when he finds a neighbour's dog dead with a garden fork sticking in it he sets off to investigate. His detective work leads him, to discover all sorts of things about his family and his neighbours and to undertake the greatest adventure of his lifetime. In the process his mathematically inclined brain sets us puzzles and new ways of thinking about things.
What did you think of the characters?
This is a book without villains. Even those who act in an unsympathetic manner are shown to simply be human and have the traits and fallibilities that make us what we are.
What did you think about the style?
The book is written as though it were done by Christopher and is the best insight into Asperger's that one could ever hope to find. Strangely, because the style is childlike in places it actually becomes difficult to read. A book without emotion is an amazing thing. It lacks the flow of normal prose, much as the Asperger's sufferer lacks the normal thought processes. This means it is not a book you can rush but the extra few minutes are well worth it.
What did you like most about the book?
I enjoy anything that helps me to see the world through the eyes of someone with a different outlook and this certainly does that. "Mark Haddon's portrayal of an emotionally dissociated mind is a superb achievement. He is a wise and bleakly funny writer with rare gifts of empathy." Ian McEwan
Was there anything you didn't like about the book?
Thoughts on the book jacket / cover.
Appropriate and part of the reason for making one pick the book up in the first place.
Would I recommend it?
Yes. Anyone who wants to know about Asperger's or who has contact with people with special needs of this sort must read it.
Totally irrelevant side note:
If we could analyse our thought processes the way Christopher does it would be a fascinating exercise.
What actually happens when you die is that your brain stops working and your body rots, like Rabbit did when he died and we buried him in the earth at the bottom of the garden. And all his molecules were broken down into other molecules and they went into the earth and were eaten by worms and went into the plants and if we go and dig in the same place in 10 years there will be nothing except his skeleton left. And in 1000 years even his skeleton will be gone. But that is all right because he is a part of the flowers and the apple tree and the hawthorn bush now.
All the other children at my school are stupid. Except I'm not meant to call them stupid, even though that is what they are. I'm meant to say that they have learning difficulties or that they have special needs. But this is stupid because everyone has learning difficulties b4ecause learning to speak French or understanding Relativity is difficult, and also everyone has special needs, like Father who has to carry a little packet of artificial sweetening tablets around with him to put in his coffee to stop him getting fat, or Mrs Peters who wears a beige-coloured hearing aid and Siobhan who has glasses so thick that they give you a headache if you borrow them, and none of of these people are Special Needs, even if they have special needs.
Eventually scientists will discover something that explains ghosts. just like they discovered electricity which explained lightning andf it might be something about people's brains, or something about the erath's magnetic field, or it might be some new force altogether. And then ghosts won't be mysteries. They will be like electricity and rainbows and non-stick frying pans.
MARK HADDON (born 1962) is an author, illustrator and screenwriter who has written fifteen books for children and won two BAFTAs. He lives in Oxford.
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