356 of 369 people found the following review helpful
on 8 March 2004
Many of the people who have reviewed this book have first hand experience of children with behavioural problems, or links to Aspergers and / or Autism. They have (almost entirely) commented on how this book reflects in some way their experiences or that of friends or relatives. They have almost all enjoyed the book, and having read these reviews you may feel that, if you have no such experience, the book may not appeal to you.
Well, I personally have no experience in these areas, and I can honestly say that this has gone straight into my all time top 5 reads!
The story is wonderfully crafted, and not a page goes by when you do not learn something new about Christopher, the central character who has, I understand, though it is not stated in the book, Aspergers Syndrome (the book is actually written entirely from Christophers perspective).
This is one of those rare books that makes you want to discuss (not just talk about) the story. My wife and I both read it over the same weekend, and we kept finding ourselves going back to it to talk through some of the difficulties that Christopher faced, and how it must be to have to deal with them, either as the child or as a parent. This story really gives an insight into a mind which, in some ways, is far more developed than the mind of an "ordinary" person. It also gives you a feel for what it must be like to need complete structure and order to a life which can never absolutely have both. The lack of what you and I would call "emotion" was in itself deeply moving, and several times I found myself asking how I would cope if one of my two children had the same difficulties.
This is a remarkable book. If only everyone could read it, society would become a much more understanding and accepting place for those who suffer from the effects of conditions such as Aspergers, ADHD and Autism.
145 of 153 people found the following review helpful
on 5 February 2004
This is a murder mystery novel like no other. The detective, and narrator, is Christopher Boone. He is fifteen and has Asperger’s, a form of Autism. He knows a very great deal about maths and very little about human beings. He loves lists, patterns and the truth and owns a pet rat called Toby. He hates the colours yellow and brown and hates being touched. He knows it’s going to be a good day if he passes red cars on his way to school on the bus. He has never gone further than the end of the road on his own, but when he finds a neighbour’s dog murdered he sets out on a terrifying journey, which will turn his whole world upside down.
Haddon has created a wonderfully brilliant character. His depiction of Christopher’s world is deeply moving, very funny and utterly convincing. He shows a unique insight into the autistic mind of the unlikely teenage detective who stumbles on everyday normalities as obstacles which further leads him to unearthing secrets that shock and startle him into running away.
What drives Haddon’s tale, however, is his empathy for his protagonist: it might have been easy to make Christopher an amusing suburban hybrid of Forest Gump and Adrian Mole, but the author digs deeper, mining a deeper emotional truth with a rigorous sense of purpose, one expressly devoid of cheap homily. He also knows a damn good page-turner: the emotional beats here are resonant and well deserved, the key plot revelations affecting, and the payoff deeply satisfying.
Although a work of fiction, it is both an educational and vividly honest adaptation of the trails and hurdles that people like Christopher undergo on a daily basis and that most of us are unaware of. A lesson can surely be learned from reading this boy’s curiously different story.
Incidentally, if you are to read only one book in the next 12 months, let it be this one. It more than deserves the recent accolade of 'Top Dog' in both the Guardian and Whitbread Awards for best book. This gem is a must and is star quality in new fiction writing regardless of age and background.
44 of 47 people found the following review helpful
Writing this first novel from the point of view of an autistic 15-year-old, Mark Haddon takes the reader into the chaos of autism and creates a character of such empathy that many readers will begin to feel for the first time what it is like to live a life in which there are no filters to eliminate or order the millions of pieces of information that come to us through our senses every instant of the day. For the autistic person, most stimuli register with equal impact, and Christopher's teacher Siobhan, at the special school he attends, has been trying to teach him to deal with the confusing outside world more effectively. At fifteen he is on the verge of gaining some tenuous control over the mass of stimuli which often sidetrack him.
When the dog across the street is stabbed and dies, Christopher decides to solve the mystery and write a book about it. His favorite novel, The Hound of the Baskervilles, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, becomes his model as he investigates the crime, uncovering many secrets involving his own family in the process. Innocent and honest, he sees things logically and interprets the spoken word literally, unable to recognize the clues which would tell him if someone is being dishonest, devious, or even facetious. As he tells his story in a simple subject-verb-object sentence pattern, Christopher tries to communicate and give order to his world, and the reader can easily see how desperate he is to find some pattern which will enable him to make sense of it.
Christopher's investigations eventually require him to make some remarkably brave decisions, and when he faces his fears and moves beyond his immediate neighborhood, the magnitude of this challenge is both dramatic and poignant. Strange places have always been traumatic for him, and he has difficulties with his emotions. "Feelings," he says, "are just having a picture on the screen in your head." He responds either with logic or with the anger which sometimes overwhelms him as result of fear or frustration, and the reader cannot help aching for him and empathizing with his family.
Christopher's coming-of-age story is most unusual, if not unique, and he ends the book a much more mature 15-year-old than he was when he started. With warmth and humor, Haddon creates a fascinating main character, allowing the reader to share in his world and experience his ups and downs, his trials and successes. In providing a vivid world in which the reader participates vicariously, Haddon fulfills the most important requirements of fiction, entertaining at the same time that he broadens the reader's perspective and allows him to gain knowledge.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 4 September 2011
Great insight into the mind of a... aspergers? is that what its called? I think it is. Although a red squiggly line is telling me otherwise.
But i read about half of this book in one sitting, and it does kind of temporarily screw up your perception a little bit.
One thing i learnt about the main character though, was that he didn't have FEELINGS. i Found this sad. But at the same time, it made a lot of the book feel a bit... dead as well. Dead? Is that the appropriate word to use? It sounds right...
OK, iv'e found a better word. Depthless.
I loved the little facts that Christopher shared throughout the book. I think this was the main reason i kept reading so fast, as not a lot happened story-wise. Well it did, but not a lot in 250-odd pages.
It was a good story nonetheless. Slightly touching, different (which is always good), and a page turner. There really was never a dull moment. For that reason, it gets 3.5 stars out of me. Hoorah...
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 8 April 2006
Written in the style of a first person narrative by an autistic teenage boy, "The Curious Incident" gently and cleverly conveys how alien and overwhelming our culture must be to anyone who is an outsider. Christopher Boone is only capable of literal interpretations. He does not understand nuances of emotions or facial expressions, so the book is often funny, as he tries to understand what others mean when they communicate with him. He has rituals that help him to cope with stress, and his daily world is filled with stress, as he notices every detail of his surroundings. He lacks intuition, but his mind is highly intelligent and logical. He innocently sets out to solve the murder of a neighbor's dog, but in doing so unravels a web of mystery in his own family. Given all the obstacles of his disability, he shows tremendous courage and ingenuity to arrive at the truth. Anyone who has navigated through the crowds in the London Underground or traveled to a foreign country without knowing the language, will understand how bombarded this poor boy feels almost every moment of his adventure. He's also brilliant at math, so I learned a lot about prime numbers. I recommend this very engaging story.
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
Christopher Boone likes mysteries. He can apply his strong powers of logic to solving them. Knowing all the prime numbers up to 7057 [at 15!] suggests his math and logic skills. When he discovers a neighbour's murdered poodle, he embraces the challenge. Become a detective! Find the murderer! So Christopher, who cannot lie, can't abide strangers, forecasts his days by colour signals, begins his career as an investigator. He records his progress in a journal, which becomes this book. Once started, like Christopher's quest, this book rejects distraction. Every page is a delight - informative, poignant, challenging in multiple ways.
His "detecting" confronts Christopher with many problems, not least of which is rapping a copper on the hooter. Receiving a "caution" from the Swinton police and a stern censure from his father, he's enjoined to "keep your nose out of other people's business". The dictum only leads him to apply precise logic when encountering others. A fan of Sherlock Holmes, he admires the analytical processes of detctive work. If he doesn't ask questions, he's not "investigating". If others ask him questions, he brings strict logic to bear on his response. He fathoms the "white lie". He knows how metaphor and simile differ. He also understands, and beautifully explains, consciousness, different forms of memory, cosmology, and evolution. And theology - he knows there is no heaven for the dead.
The security of that knowledge enabled him to accept his mother's death with equanimity. But when his investigation confronts him with a new mystery - one which involves his mother, his aplomb shatters. Things thought stable no longer support his view of the world. He must now confront challenges he previously held at bay. From being a "mystery", Haddon's tale becomes an adventure. No astronaut nor jungle explorer faced such enigmas as Christopher must now confront. Nor with such impediments.
Christopher is autistic, a condition with no clear definition, treatment or root cause. He suffers Behavioral Problems, carefully listing eighteen of them. He understands that he doesn't understand other people. And sees no reason to try to learn how. They don't seem to want to understand him. He's in a school for children who have Learning Difficulties, but people who "have difficulty learning French" or "who don't understand relativity" aren't in there with him. Some children have Special Needs, but people who use saccharine instead of sugar and who have hearing aids, aren't in the school. "None of these people are Special Needs, even if they have special needs" he says.
Haddon provides a revelation into autistic minds no clinical study can match. Yet this exposure is done with such charm and grace, the reader can only be captivated by the narrative. A book that can be read on many levels, none complete nor wholly correct, it will long stand as a model. It might even help us cast aside some of our prejudices about distinctions between "normal" and "peculiar" behaviour. Shed your preconceived notions as you open the book. Then keep reading.
[stephen a. haines - Ottawa, Canada]
289 of 320 people found the following review helpful
If I were reviewing this as an adult's book then I would award it 5 stars without any hesitation. Any book that holds my attention to such a degree that I read it in one sitting certainly deserves that, despite the fact that towards the end I started to lose sympathy for the narrator.
However, this review deals with the so-called Children's Edition. Although the text is clear and simple, this is NOT in my opinion a book for children; young adults yes, but not children. The bad language and profanities throughout the text make it unsuitable. I lost count of the amount of times I read the 'F' word and worse. The narrator's mental problem means he remembers everything he sees/hears in detail and can repeat it verbatim. In one passage, he does this with words he sees written on a tube station wall, repeating something I wish no child of mine to read. Doubtless, kids hear language as bad, and worse, every day at school, but that doesn't automatically mean that responsible parents want them reading it at home.
Don't let the bright childlike cover-art on this edition, or the fact it is frequently seen displayed beside Rowling and Snicket, fool you into thinking it is suitable for ages 12 and under. If you are the broad-minded parent of a precocious child, then go ahead; however, discerning parents may wish to check this book out BEFORE ordering a copy for a child. I feel it only fair to make this clear. After all, television programmes that use bad language before the watershed are obliged to broadcast a warning beforehand.
This is already a best-selling adult book. Children aren't children for long; this book will be around for years, they can always read it a year or two later.
I know many will not agree with my opinion, and vote this review as 'unhelpful' simply because they think my view is outdated or narrowminded. Most people who take this view are not parents themselves - perhaps they'll see things differently as and when they are!
Please bear in mind: My aim IS to help, by simply alerting parents to the book's content. It is up to each individual to judge whether this is something they want for their children or not.
57 of 63 people found the following review helpful
on 29 April 2003
Being Christopher Boone is pretty eccentric. Writing his way into Christopher’s head, Mark Haddon is a sharp, ambitious, arresting and convincing author. So how do you write an account of the life of a boy who can’t account for much that happens? Partly, by recounting the far from reachless stuff that Christopher does take in. Haddon pulls it off by getting Christopher to explain exactly what is happening, and I mean exactly. The curious incident of the dog in the night-time – the Holmes quotation of the title ricochets through the book – has a marginal character in society as narrator. So we read of what society looks like at one of its edges, and how those at its edges are treated. What we get is often what Christopher doesn’t get: he doesn’t understand the people that surround him, but we can because we can reclaim from his narrative what strikes him as peripheral. This action, restructuring the tale, is maybe what this book is for, bringing Christopher back into society. The treatment is a revelation, weirdly informative and extremely funny. This book is for sale in an edition for children; which is spot on. Christopher Boone is someone I would never have known as a child, and I begin to see maybe why. Mark Haddon performs the trick of getting inside the beautiful mind of a boy who is mostly not confused, but often confusing. I reckon A curious incident of the dog in the night-time notches up top marks.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 23 August 2005
I would like to disagree with the reviewer above who commented that this book was just another about "children in need". I don't think that was the author's intention at all. I do not think anyone was supposed to feel glad with themselves for reading it or to feel pity for Christopher. It makes no ends how mild the boy's Autism was and I think that's being far too cynical.
It's a beautifuly written book that consistenly, even unrelentingly keeps true to itself. Simply and exquisitly put together. At first the language makes it seem like an easy read but by the end it becomes a struggle and you begin to feel the pure frustration of those around him.
I think the author has created a wonderful story that brings the reader in and forces them to see the world from a completely different point of view.
It's like two sides and to eachother both are being irrational but it's something that won't be solved and will not change.
Brilliant book. Highly reccomend it !
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 18 November 2013
As a parent of someone on the autistic spectrum, I thought it would be a really interesting read. Actually, it just isnt that good. The story is pretty bizarre given that it is supposed to echo reality and I thought it made the protaganist come across as a little bit stupid at times. If the aim is to encourage other young people to understand autism I'm not sure it does that well.
The language is foul in numerous places. My 12 year old was expected to read it out in class - talk about mixed messages from the teachers. Working with people from very difficult backgrounds with complicated histories who often use colourful language is part of my profession so its not just a prudish reaction on my part.
Wonder if those who liked it have read much else about ASD characters so may have been swayed by the idea? Just a thought! Colin Fischer by Ashley Edward Miller is a much better read (even with the US backdrop it is still very accessible for UK readers).