The narrator of this novel, fifteen-year-old Christopher Boone, is autistic (or, more accurately, probably, has Asperger's Syndrome). He lives with his father and believes his mother died two years before. Christopher is extremely good at mathematics, seems to have a photographic memory, but does not like novels (other than detective stories, which are about observation and logic), because he cannot empathize with human emotions or make sense of the indirect or figurative. For Christopher, metaphors, like fictions, are lies. He is very fond of dogs, and hates to be touched by people.

When a neighbour's dog is killed, he decides to investigate and, with the encouragement of his teacher, to write a book about his investigation. He quickly makes some very disturbing discoveries. He learns that his mother is not dead after all, but living in London with the husband of the dead dog's owner. The fact that his father has lied to him devastates Christopher. He runs away to London to find his mother, and his courage and tenacity allow him to solve not only the mystery of the dog's death but that of his family's past and future.


Haddon, who has worked with autistic children, brilliantly imagines both the capacities and the limitations of autistic subjectivity. Because Christopher is literal and unselective in his observation of detail, the reader is given a precise and vivid view of his world. We are easily able to make the connections that Christopher does not see, but what he does see also gives us a new view of how those automatic connections may lead to inaccurate preconceptions. Fascinatingly, one who rejects fiction turns out to be an astonishingly good storyteller, even though we are ironically, saddeningly, aware that the story we read between the lines is not the same as the one that Christopher experiences.

The result is an illuminating and moving, and often very funny, study of perception and behavior. In the differences between Christopher's view of the world and our own, we learn a great deal about the capacities and limitations of the "normal" human mind, and about the ways in which the human habit of narrating frequently relies on the excision of parts of reality.


This novel won the Whitbread Prize (Great Britain).



Place Published

New York



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