I finished this latest title in my 50 Novel reading challenge a week or so ago but as it slipped my mind to post my afterthoughts so I thought I’d better do that now (sorry about that).
So what did I think of it? Well I thought it was good, really good. I gave a brief rundown on the novel during my intro post for this read, so I won’t repeat myself again. But for those short on time or mouse clicks, the basic story is about an autistic teenager called Christopher Boone, who sets out on a quest to solve the crime of a neighbour’s murdered dog. The story is told from Christopher’s perspective, in first-person as though he were writing a novel; in fact Christopher claims authorship often throughout the book and what I love about this format i.e. written from Christopher’s unique perspective, is the extraneous detail in the prose, detail that most authors would never put in such as drawings, maps, math solutions, every single word of a conversation, and even a few nuggets of novel writing advice that’s been offered to him by his teacher, and ‘proofreader’ Siobhan :o).
The crime-solving plot, although more than adequate for holding interest, really plays second fiddle to the main raison d’etre for the book in my opinion – the sublime characterising of the chief protagonist Christopher. I’d even go as far as to say that the story has been set up with the sole focus of providing a stage for Christopher to perform, but what a performance it is. Anyone who knows me, knows that I love exemplary characterisation (id est Steinbeck), and Mark Haddon is outstanding in his construction of Christopher. I stated during my intro post to this read that Peter Boxall, the author of 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die, had called this novel “a startling insight into Christopher’s world” and I couldn’t agree with him more.
I’m not sure of the author’s background i.e. if he knows a ‘real life’ Christopher, but his depiction of someone suffering from Asperger Syndrome is profoundly realised. It’s perhaps wrong to draw comparison but I’ve seen a number of documentaries featuring Kim Peek, the genius savant that the movie Rain Man was based on, and Christopher through many of his characteristics, reminded me very much of Kim. I’m endeared to Kim. I think he has a sensational personality, and after reading Curious Incident I also find myself just as endeared to Christopher, who is nothing more than a fictional character. I think that speaks volumes in respect to the incredible success that Haddon has made of this character.
Returning to the story’s plot itself and as I said before it’s more than adequate although very ‘side show’. There are some nice twist and turns in the story to further hold further interest and keep the story moving, but it is the world revealed from Christopher’s perspective that is really this novel’s crowning glory. As such Curious Incident is an unmissable read!
My 14-year-old daughter Katy has also read this novel, and when she heard I was finally writing up my review she asked if she could also add a paragraph or two on her own ‘afterthoughts’. I thought that was a great idea:
I think Mark Haddon portrayed Christopher’s autistic character perfectly, with the many quirks to his condition. I like how the author went into a lot of detail about everything; the diagrams and maths problems throughout the book really added to it and gave me more of an insight into Christopher.
I think the storyline could have been stronger, but the strong character compelled me to read on. I would recommend the book to everyone, it’s interesting to find out how Christopher deals with the situation, and his condition.
Favourite Quote: “Joseph eats everything. He once ate one of the little blocks of blue disinfectant which hang inside the toilets. And once he ate a £50 note from his mother’s wallet. And he eats string and rubber bands and tissues and writing paper and paints and plastic forks. Also he bangs his chin and screams a lot.”
Favourite Scene: When Christopher takes a train ride on his own. Every one of his idiosyncratic behaviours comes to the fore during this scene and they’re illustrated superbly. I feel this one scene on its own brings home more than any other, the profound difficulties that autism can bring about in everyday life.
What this novel has taught me about writing: I didn’t think that anyone other than John Steinbeck could teach me a better lesson about character creation. I was wrong! Mark Haddon’s depiction of Christopher is nothing short of genius, and although his lesson doesn’t quite measure up to that of John Steinbeck’s, it certainly comes a close second.