Good Reading : April 2006
APRIL 2006 ı goodreading 13 reading group Christopher is 15 and lives in Swindon with his father, a heating engineer. Christopher has Asperger’s syndrome, a form of autism, and is obsessed with maths, science and Sherlock Holmes, but ﬁnds it hard to understand other people’s emotions. When he discovers a poodle stabbed to death on his neighbour’s lawn he decides to solve the mystery and write a detective thriller about it. As in all good detective stories, however, the more he unearths, the deeper the mystery gets — for both Christopher and the rest of his family. KAREN of the Book and Wine Group from Melbourne wrote: We all thought this was a cleverly writ- ten and unusually structured novel.The main character, Christopher John Francis Boone, doesn’t understand emotions and needs a code to decipher them. He has a photographic memory, excels in maths and science, and gets fixated on things like red or yellow cars which are good or bad omens, either totally incapacitating him or giving him energy and optimism to get through the day. He finds people confusing and often finds it extremely difficult to understand simple instruc- tions like ‘be quiet’ or ‘keep out of other people’s business’ so he requires specific, step-by-step instructions to help him decode the world around him and get by in what becomes increasingly obvious is a mad, chaotic world. We thought that was one of the best aspects of the book – the clever way that Haddon makes you reflect on the ordinary, everyday things that often really don’t make much sense. The book is a detective story, and what appears on the surface to be a sad but rather curious incident unfolds into a much more complex plot of a family and marriage destroyed by the effects of Asperger’s disease and the web of lies that ensues. As readers we all felt that, in a sense, we became the detective as we began to glean the bigger picture. Haddon’s storytelling is pure magic. SUE FILSON of the Stroud Book Group, NSW wrote: The story is so well contrived that it is some pages into the book before the reader realises that the protagonist is dis- abled.We thought it was amazing that the author could get into the mind of the boy.The book should be essential reading for anyone who has to deal with people with disabilities, explaining why people working with schizophrenics, or those suffering from Asperger’s syndrome, should not vary routines, because to vary the routine completely disorientates them. Parents of disabled children are usually portrayed as angels, who have infinite patience. Haddon describes the true picture: that it is not always sweetness and light. He writes of the mother’s angry out- bursts and the father’s exasperation, often being at the end of his tether – he treats the parents as real people. And he accurately describes the young guy’s logic, which is illogical to an outsider but perfectly logical to him.When the boy sees so many red cars he knows that he will have a great day. It is a revelation to most readers that some- one can make reasonable decisions based on illogical premises. It was interesting that none of the seven members of our group who’d read this book could remember the boy’s name, but all could remember very clear details of the story, even though we read it over a year ago. Our group includes a long time helper/trainer with Riding for the Disabled and a parent of a young man suffering from Aspberger’s. THE BL BOOK GROUP of Sydney wrote: When we discussed this book we all commented on how it stuck in our thoughts after we’d read it. And it still sticks with us to this day. We all recom- mended it to colleagues and friends, and found that it had the same effect on them. None of us had had contact with anyone who has Asperger’s syndrome, and we had no understanding of what it would be like to have someone who suffered in our families, let alone be the sufferer, before reading this book. When Christopher searches for an answer to the mystery of who killed his neighbour’s dog you begin to understand his behaviour and how he copes with his world. His world is an ordered one, and any digression from order turns it upside down. Haddon subtly shows how those who surround Christopher, from his parents to strangers he meets, manage in their own way to deal with him. As we read we found that we couldn’t help but re-evaluate our and others’ behaviour towards someone who is different. In our February issue we asked reading groups to send in their thoughts and opinions on Mark Haddon’s multi-award-winning novel The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, a crossover Young Adult book with a huge adult following all over the world. Before writing this, Haddon had been a cartoonist, a BAFTA award-winning scriptwriter and a successful children’s book writer, with fourteen novels under his belt. He had also spent time working in centres for people with learning difﬁculties. curiouser and curiouser Share your opinions with othergr reading groups from all over the country by joining our reading group discussion. Send us 200 words summarising one of your recent discussions – ofany book – by 24 April and we’ll publish an edited selection of the best in our June issue. Don’t forget to include a postal address when you send your summary in, because those selected for publication will receive a package of books as a thank you! If you’d like to join our reading group register, you can register your group online at www.goodreadingmagazine.com.au Join in our national reading group discussion!