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Last Updated: Friday, 9 January 2004, 09:42 GMT
Haddon's tale of genius
Keily Oakes
By Keily Oakes
BBC News Online entertainment staff

Mark Haddon
Haddon's book has two imprints - one for teenagers and one for adults

Mark Haddon's novel The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time has won the Whitbread Novel Award 2004.

The novel, ostensibly for children but admired by many critics, has been making waves in the past year.

It made the Man Booker Prize longlist in 2003 but, to the surprise of many, failed to make the shortlist.

Booker chairman John Carey protested in exasperation when his fellow judges refused to let him shortlist Haddon's work.

"I found it breathtaking," he said. "It is an extraordinary thing that these educated people don't agree."

But the novel picked up several other awards, including the Guardian Children's Fiction Prize and the Booktrust Teenage Prize.

'For adults'

Writer Ian McEwan said the book was a "superb achievement" while the Times newspaper said it was one of the most original novels in years.

And writers who named it among their favourite books of the year were Joanne Harris, Peter Carey, Ian Hislop and Nigel Williams.

Haddon, who is best known as a children's author, has said he did not write The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time for children, and saw it as more of a book for adults.

But publishers took the book and released two versions, with one cover aimed at adults and one for teenage readers.

The central character, Christopher Boone, is a 15-year-old with a form of autism, a maths genius who cannot understand the complexities of human behaviour.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is written in his voice as he sets out on a journey to discover who killed his neighbour's dog.

Thought-provoking

Despite being warned to keep out of other people's business by his long-suffering father, Christopher will not be distracted from his mission, but by carrying on he opens up dark secrets about his life.

Author Mark Haddon is best known for his children's books. But this is a brilliantly written novel disguised as a murder-mystery which, through the eyes of Christopher, gives a different view of the world.

Christopher often sees his own at times bizarre behaviour, such as hating anything yellow or brown and not talking for days, as completely logical, and he rarely focuses on his disability.

It also reveals the difficulties suffered by those around him, who try to remain patient but understandably find the pressure of caring for a special needs child hard to handle.

The book is both painfully funny and moving, as well as convincing and thought-provoking - Christopher's struggles with everyday life are something to be admired.

It is only a short novel, interspersed with illustrations and maths equations, but the reader is able to completely immerse themselves in the eccentric world of Christopher Boone.

Mark Haddon's The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is published by Jonathan Cape.

Have you read the novel? Do you think it is a worthy winner?

Send us your views on the form below.

A truly groundbreaking and transgressive book. It takes the reader into the obsessive other world of autism with understanding and empathy.
Debra, UK

It's an incredible book, and an incredible story. Having worked with kids with varying degrees of autism I found the realism of Christopher's situation at the same time moving, funny and life-affirming. I thought the book waned slightly towards the end, with the family backstory taking precedence over Christopher's quest, which was more interesting, but it wasn't enough to spoil what was possibly the best book I've read in years. I'm currently reading Vernon God Little, which won the Man Booker Prize, and I cannot for the life of me figure out how it even made the shortlist when Curious Incident did not.
John Sinclair, Scotland

I am 15 and I read this book and was taken aback with how well written it was. I am an avid reader and there is nothing better than sitting in front of the fire reading a good book. And this book is truly excellent. I found it compelling and sad, informative yet fun. This book is a must read and I think it is brilliant.
Jake Rebuck, England

I had to read this novel for my book group and wouldn't have chosen it myself but I loved it to bits. However disapproving John Carey's pompous viewpoint, a few educated people in the group didn't! It's brilliant, I think, but if you don't like it, you don't. Who's to say what is or isn't a good book - a book you like is a great book, if it doesn't grab you, it's not.
Emma, UK

I read this book with particular interest as I have a son with Asperger's. It really was both funny and moving and has caused much controversy in the family (we've all read it, with the notable exception of my son with Asperger's, who "won't read fiction"! - we argued about the behaviour of Christopher's father and whether he was an adequate parent). I was delighted to hear this morning that Mark Haddon is getting the acclaim he deserves.
Jane Napier, England

Mark Haddon's book is one of the most enjoyable novels that I have read in some time. Ostensibly about Christopher solving the mystery of who killed his neighbours dog (the title is taken from Sherlock Homes) this book is really about so much more: life, love, coping with disability and above all parental responsibility (and irresponsibility). I urge anyone to read it. John Carey was right, the other Booker judges made a serious mistake for not putting this wonderful book on the Booker shortlist. Thank heavens the Whitbread judges were not as short sighted.
Mark Nelson, UK

My young nephew has Asperger's Syndrome (AS), like the hero of this story. Whilst remaining funny, heartwarming and highly entertaining, Haddon's book provided me with more insight into AS than any number of 'academic' articles had managed. I re-read aloud practically every chapter to my family as a means of illustrating and explaining the sometimes bewildering though always charming behaviour of our lovely D. Deserved winner; buy the book.
Jamie Frankis, UK

A worthy winner? What, a book that is relentlessly inventive from page one, that offers a rollercoaster of emotions for the reader, and creates a very complete and different world? A book that might coax a very wide range of people to pick it up, (even teenagers) enjoy it and maybe even discuss it? Not the sort of thing awards are usually handed out for, surely! Of course it's a worthy winner. It's just one of those very rare books that appeals beyond the margins of the few, without a hint of compromise.
Mike Shuttleworth, Australia

This is simply the best book I've read in years, forget the childrens'/adult version description, they are the same book and it is a distraction. It is one book which should be read by everyone. It makes you begin to understand autism without being condescending and is very funny and very moving, making me cry in places. I've even bought it for others to read, including two friends with autistic children. Cheesy though it may sound, if you read one book this year, the Curious Incident should be the one you choose.
Hilary, UK

I discovered the book by chance and then read it all in one day in two sittings as I could not put it down. I teach a boy with Aspergers Syndrome and I feel like I've never understood him better than now. It is so remarkably accurate in describing the features and I was incredibly moved at times.
Damian, United Kingdom




SEE ALSO
Author Haddon wins teenage prize
04 Nov 03 |  Entertainment
Writers await Whitbread winners
06 Jan 04 |  Entertainment
Teen's tale wins children's prize
06 Oct 03 |  Entertainment

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