09/01/2013 by Siddiqui Fayesal
I started reading this one with gusto. The reason for disappointment after finishing it, I realised, was that I was expecting something completely different from the book. My fault. One shouldn’t expect a psycho thriller from a romantic book, should they? It just won’t be fair.
Christopher John Francis Boone suffers from Savant Syndrome where the afflicted is mildly retarded though exhibiting brilliance in certain fields. I won’t go into the details of the medical condition as I’m not aware of the minor characteristics of the particular condition. Christopher, who is 15 years 3 months and 2 days old at the time the story begins, is brilliant in Advance Mathematics along with complicated number problems. He might not be able to tell you what an angry face means but he can definitely solve the Monty Hall Problem…in his head!!! No matter how complicated it is, if it can be translated into numbers Christopher can solve it! He has the uncanny ability to visualize and comprehend the tiny details that our congested minds do not have the ability to grasp. He pays attention, without trying hard, to small things like a leaf sticking from under a shoe; number of black and white cows in a farm; the different colours of grass or even a snail slithering on a can of Coca Cola! In his words, he has the ability to detach his mind at will, just like Sherlock Holmes whom Christopher looks up to for that very reason. It was his love for solving mysteries that makes Christopher take up the challenge which basically forms the entire body of the book.
The story begins with Christopher discovering his neighbour’s dead dog. Christopher decides to solve the mystery surrounding the death, the murder rather, of Wellington (the dog). The book is a description, through the eyes of a 15 year old suffering from the said syndrome, of all that he feels when he meets different people. Speaking of characters created by Haddon, I’d say that the sketch of Christopher is very well researched. I say that not because I know of the syndrome but because of the small intricate detailing done. The way he walks and the way he hates yellow and brown colours; the way he hates his different food items touching each other and the way he HATES it if people grab him speaks for itself.
The others, like his father, his mother, his friend cum teacher cum counselor cum confidante, Siobhan are good but nothing brilliant or boast worthy. Without sounding condescending I’d say that Haddon’s entire effort was spent on the protagonist with a little spent on the tertiary characters and a sprinklers worth on the story line. But I suppose that sounds harsh as, my personal opinion guys, I think the book wasn’t written for the story per se.
The story-line of the plot is simple and Haddon has kept it simple right till the end. He catered only for kids before he wrote this particular one which is appreciated by readers from all age groups. Was this transition by choice or by chance? Was this a perfect change from an initial start that segued into a teen writer? Well, I have no idea, but what I can say with complete confidence is that the book is NOT about the story. It is about the character of Christopher and it’s about his point of view. During his journey towards finding the killer of Wellington he finds out things about his mother that he had had no idea about. He has a fallout with his father who, I have to mention, is a good father. A very good father who has successfully handled all the issues of bringing up a son with ‘special needs’ but he makes one mistake. His intentions are good but he lies to Christopher about his mother. Christopher reacts wildly. In my honest opinion, he has every right to be angry with his father for the lying part, but he forgets about the way his dad brought him up and the difficulties associated with it. But maybe he cant help it. I wouldn’t know.
The story is not a mystery thriller or a mad murder spree. It’s a family drama unfolding with the same excitement that is worthy of an everyday mediocre family. What makes it different is the manner and the interpretation that is added by Christopher. The book makes for a good read. But it would be important for the reader to not expect a thriller. It is not. It is not meant to be.
The writing style of Haddon gets full marks, almost. I’d give him an 8 on 10 happily because he brings to life the character of Christopher with clarity and finesse.
The story is mediocre. There are no bragging rights attached to the author. I’d give it around 4 on 10.
The characterization and the writing style is very much the same as I see it. The first person narrative leaves only a little space to maneuver for the author to use flippant and exaggerated language with ease without destroying the essence of the book.
A good book if read with the right perspective. It was at least, if nothing else, an educational and interesting insight into Christopher!