October 18, 2006

Beauty of Simple Things

You won’t pick a book with a title like that if you don’t know anything else about it. Or you may pick the book precisely because of that. Then you read the jacket, the blurb, the introduction. It’s a story of a fifteen-year-old Christopher, who has a photographic memory. “He understands maths. He understands science. What he can’t understand are other human beings.” Is it good enough? It was for me.
Oh, and how good it was! I don’t remember last time I enjoyed a book this much. It’s one emotional roller-coaster journey with Christopher, who sets upon solving what he calls a murder mystery about who killed a neighbour’s dog. He uncovers lots of mysteries of his own family in the process.
What turns this plot out of ordinary is the fact that Christopher is a special child. Interestingly the writer Mark Haddon does not use the diagnosis once in the novel of the symptoms he describes in his central character, that are of a child with developmental and behavioral syndrome called autism spectrum.
It would be interesting to see how a person who is not familiar with disorder reads the novel. I, for one, am coloured with my perception of the character based on an autistic child close to me.
I identified with Christopher because of that. That was one reason.
The novel is ‘significant’ and ‘interesting’ for several other reasons. It’s one book which is about a character who has a disability but this is not a book about the disability. But through the story of that boy the ingenuous author manages to tell so much about the disability that any other book set upon to do that would have failed to do so, so effectively. It makes you sad. It makes you happy. It makes you run entire gamut of emotions in its 250 odd pages. There is one character who is not a rounded character and that doesn’t take anything away from the novel. That is because he is not meant to be one. He is one flat character that is so loveable. By the middle of the book a reader knows how he is going to respond to things. That is the way he is “made”. But all credit to Mark Haddon, who weaves a story around him that is so very unpredictable. You get to know who killed the dog half way but there crops up many more mysteries and it keeps you guessing right till the end.
Christopher reminded me how I ‘hated’ maths. In fact, that’s what I thought earlier. I think actually I didn’t hate maths. I just wished away maths because of the way we were taught maths. Just take the case of prime numbers. I had heard of that but I didn’t know what that is. Nor did I care. Christopher showed me it was not only very simple to figure out but very interesting too.
Maths can be fun. At least it’s not that dreadful as I thought.
This is one of the discoveries I made after I read the novel.
Another was that facial expressions mean different things. Like Christopher is told by his teacher that raising one eyebrow can mean lots of different things. It can mean "I want to do sex with you" and it can also mean "I think that what you just said was very stupid". Sounds simple? Sort of. Simple in a funny way or exasperating, if you like it.
Christopher makes you realise the beauty of simple things like nothing can.
Like reading a book lying on your bed with left leg up, foot on the book shelf besides the bed, face tilted towards right with the support of a pillow bent from a corner to give slight elevation to the head.
Try this.


Soapbox mom said...

Hi Jaypee. Saw your comment on the "What are they thinking?" blog and wandered on over here.
About the Curious Incident. I had not yet read this book when my father, who lives across the country, told me about it. He absolutely cherishes his little autistic grandson and had stumbled upon the book while on vacation. It was highly recommended by a chance meeting of his.
Long story short--I bought the book and, of course, loved it. I found it to be a good mystery, which I love, a great story of changing family dynamics, which we all experience, and most importantly a lesson of love, sacrifice, and acceptance.
I passed the book along to various coworkers, who returned it a little worse for wear, and in turn passed it to my teenagers. They passed it along to their friends. I no longer have possession of the book I purchased, but I have the memories of it, and I am secure in my knowledge that it has gone on to enlighten and educate a great many people.
Thank you for this post.

jaypee said...

Nice to know you liked the book. As I finished the book I felt like sharing my feelings about it with anyone who cares. i wrote the post and sent it to some of the blogs I was reading with an interest in autism. there's no one around me who has read the book yet including the one who brought the book in first place. So you are the first one who got back with a reaction. hope to see you again some time. thanks for sharing.

Malinda777 said...

Thanks for sending me an e-mail about this book. Bad as I am, I rarely read, but I'm thinking this might be one to add to my list.

Appreciate the heads up, and I will most definately forward this on to my folks that have challanged children in their lives.

Rajesh said...

Nice book review...made me wanting to read on....

Surfergirl said...

Hi! This is a very insightful book and i like your review on it. Excellent. Heard that "A Spot of Bother" (also by Haddon) is a perfect read to follow up on 'Curious Incident..'

Lee Ai Ling said...

I actually bought the book on an impulse because of the unique title and I never regretted buying it. I think I finished it the same day I bought it. I have recommended this book to countless of people. Every single time I read the book, it always made me sad but at the same time, uplifted.
Thanks for your comment on my blog. It was much appreciated. Glad to know there is another Mark Haddon fan!

Hack said...

Thanks for sharing your review, jaypee. I often think about this book even though I don't even know anyone who has been diagnosed as autistic or with autistic spectrum disorder. Surfergirl suggests Haddon's "A Spot of Bother," which I'm going to try to find. I typed Haddon's name into paperbackswap.com and bookmooch.com and the only things that came up were childrens' books. Best, caveblogem (I'm only Hack on blogspot)

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