By Esin Huseyin and Miho
This month we explore the mysterious novel by British author Mark Haddon; who takes us in to the world of Christopher Boone. It’s a world that you and I often understand, but one that Christopher tries to make sense of, leading us on a journey of what it feels like to be an outsider.
This month I’m joined by Miho from Wander to Wonder, and here’s what she thought:
I remember being blown away by this book when I first read it, several years ago. As someone who has worked with an autistic child for a long time, it was as though I was suddenly granted insight into the mind of someone who is on the asperger’s/autism spectrum, in the most credible, raw and natural sense. But essentially, when that part of Christopher is stripped away, It is simply a beautifully written story of someone who feels like and is perceived as an outsider – something that most people can relate to at one point or another in their lives.
What I particularly love about the novel is the “use” of London as an alien space for Christopher, making it a universal setting of a foreign place. His journey into and time in the city is an exaggerated experience of something we’ve all been through, struggling in a place that is not our own and fighting against the sense of uncertainty and fear, and not simply just in physical unfamiliarity. When life as you know it is turned upside down, and somehow you have to navigate yourself through and around it all – for which we all have different ways of coping, Christopher included. The primal and vivid descriptions of London through has me looking at this city with fresh eyes, and also feeling as though in the context, London could be anywhere, although I can’t imagine a better backdrop for this part of the story.
For me, it is essential for a good novel to give you characters that you feel human sympathy towards, and this one does. The complex lives of adults, and their desperation to do what they believe is best for those they care about (although admittedly, some of the characters in the book have no redeeming qualities, at least within the novel!), combined the nature of Christopher and the difficulties he faces, makes you soften even at the unlikeable characters and has you pensive for long after the book is finished.
I found this book absolutely beautiful to read; it’s not about labeling Chris as having asperger’s or autism; in fact, having read some of Mark Haddon’s interviews prior to this month’s Book Club, he actually did more research in to the London Underground than autism.
The idea that Miho picked up on of London being used as a backdrop for a foreign setting, is actually quite common in literature, but it’s explored through not only text – but graphs and diagrams. These references to maths throughout, I understood as a form of stability; after all, no matter which country or city you’re in, maths is always the same.
London is portrayed as confusing, gargantuan, blunt and often too loud. It’s overbearing presence on Chris is one that this Capital has on many inhabitants and visitors. When reading, I felt as if the city does not slow down for anybody – you have to get up, keep up, or get lost trying. Chris was able to overcome the mighty London by himself, which leaves the doors of opportunity open for him – he’s probably one of my favourite fictional characters, ever.
Next month we’ll be reading Charles Dicken’s A Tale of Two Cities – if you have any questions you wish us to answer, or if you wish to read along with us, please use the hashtag #MaybeLondonBookClub