The author, Mark Haddon, writes with incredible empathy about a 15 year-old boy – Christopher Boone – who has Asperger syndrome; I have copied the following from The National Autistic Society website in case you don’t know what Asberger Syndrome is:“Asperger syndrome is a form of autism, which is a lifelong disability that affects how a person makes sense of the world, processes information and relates to other people. Autism is often described as a ‘spectrum disorder’ because the condition affects people in many different ways and to varying degrees.
Asperger syndrome is mostly a ‘hidden disability’. This means that you can’t tell that someone has the condition from their outward appearance. People with the condition have difficulties in three main areas. They are: • social communication • social interaction • social imagination.
Christopher finds it difficult to look at people, to read facial expressions, he hates the colours yellow and brown, being touched, crowds and noise and groans when he is upset. He judges what kind of day he is going to have by how many cars of a particular colour he sees in succession.
He has never been further than the end of his road; he goes to a special school and has a pet rat called Toby, is brilliant at maths and can grasp incredibly complex concepts about science and the universe.
The plot revolves around Christopher finding a neighbour’s dog murdered by someone who has skewered it with a garden fork. Christopher decided to become a detective and sets out to find out the identity of the murderer.
What follows is absolutely absorbing and it challenges us to enter Christopher’s world and see things using his mental map; it is, at the same time a very humbling and inspiring experience to see the world through the eyes of this young man and to be thankful that we – probably – don’t have the same challenges that he has.
However, we might, at the same time, wish for some of the insights, positive naivety and honesty he brings to his life, the world could be a better place for it.
The book is funny, heart-breaking, dark, insightful and very moving and though I appreciate that, as the book was first published in 2003 when it won the Whitbread Prize, you may have already read it. If you haven’t, please gift it to yourself, or someone you care about – if you buy no other book this or next year – BUY THIS ONE.