This month I read The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon. I chose it for my Challenge because I had bought it to read for the PGCE I never finished (like most things in my life) and everybody was raving about it. It’s sat languishing on my bookshelf for long enough.
This is one of those books that everyone raves about, but when it gets down to it, they’ve not read the book, but heard rave reviews about the stage adaptation. Their granny’s mate or little brother’s English class went to see it and it changed their lives.
I really enjoyed it, despite it not being my usual fare. Parts I laughed out loud and others I had to choke back a sob. It begins with a murder mystery and turns into a slightly different murder mystery, and manages to be both sad and happy at the same time. I don’t have much experience with Asperger’s Syndrome bar what I’ve seen on TV or witnessed small glimpses of at school, but Christopher comes across as a convincing narrator. It is a hard thing to write fully in the mind of a character and limit everything down to their vision and comprehension, and Haddon manages not to slip any omniscient voiceovers in. The action flows at a swift pace, slowed down as required by chapters ruminating on things that Christopher struggles to comprehend – the feelings of others, what behaviour is expected in what circumstance.
Part of storytelling and character-building is to think about the different ways people can react to ordinary events and experiences. Some people do find it hard to genuinely recognise when others’ feelings are hurt or lives are compromised. Others do it out of pure selfishness (after all, as much as we try to deny it, we are each individually at the centre of our own universe) or even nastiness, which is the darker side of selfishness.
Alongside Curious Incident I’ve also been reading Book 2 of Fitz and the Fool, Fool’s Quest, by Robin Hobb, who is one of my favourite fantasy writers and one of my all-time favourite writers full stop. I just finished this today and have a little bit of a wait before Book 3 comes out – I’m hoping I will be able to afford it! The pacing of Fool’s Quest was a little better than Fool’s Assassin, though it follows the same structure. Hobb is a master of making the ordinary, everyday fascinating – something Haruki Murakami does so well too. Attention is made to the mundane activities of general life, and there is a beautiful balance to all that Hobb writes. Fitz’s life reads so convincingly that even mentions of dragons and Elderlings and magic don’t jar the mind. I must say that the first few chapters were excruciating to read, as we the reader were reeling from the events in Withywoods at the end of the first book, and had to sit through chapters of the oblivious Fitz wading through courtly life and caring for his old friend, the Fool. We see Fitz finally being given rightful acknowledgement of all he has done in the shadows for the Farseer throne and beyond, though this acknowledgement causes unending problems, though those soon pale into insignificance as the plot goes in wild, unforeseen directions. Familiar faces from other series by Hobb make welcome appearances as storylines from Fitz’s world in the Six Duchies and beyond begin to influence his own story.
I haven’t picked an April book yet, but imagine it too will be a short one! We are right in the depths of lambing now and as soon as that starts to quieten down I’ll be starting work so April is looking to be a busy month for me.