The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time – Mark Haddon

Christopher Boone is 15. He lives with his father and pet rat Toby. He struggles with interaction and finds emotions confusing, but his ability to cope with facts strengthens his talent for maths and logic puzzles. His life is full of structure and familiarity, until 7 minutes after midnight when he discovers his neighbour’s dog lying lifeless in the middle of the lawn. As the story develops, he unwittingly pieces together the murder mystery and answers darker questions about his own life and parents.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time resonates the mindset of a child with Asperger syndrome in its structure (seemingly unrelated chapters labelled by prime numbers) and its poignant narrative.

“I cannot tell jokes because I do not understand them.”

Everyday life is exposed through the eyes of the protagonist and effectively the novel does not directly make his condition known. An illustration of Christopher’s mindset is shown in the story where he is asked to perform the Sally-Anne task, this insightful fragment of the narrative demonstrates his egocentricity and inability to understand the world from another person’s point of view.  The complexity of life for Christopher is shown through his logic and misunderstandings; by means of his innocent musings the novel explains the contrast between his difficulties in life and the clear-cut truth he finds in maths.

Whilst there are mature themes throughout this novel many aspects are humorous and enjoyable. The central character’s credible and endearing oddities, Siobhan’s patience, the London Underground adventure, Super Good Days, diagrams of clouds, maths problems and maps, are all part of the compelling entertainment in this story.

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Gone Girl – Gillian Flynn

Gone Girl is a dark and twisted story that pulls apart the marriage of two minds, Nick and Amy Dunne. It is a narrative centred around deception and doubt that re-stages marriage as a bitter and violent crime.  Consciously, Gone Girl takes the intrinsic concerns of any relationship (infidelity, money, family and parenthood) and poisons them. It raises questions about the media as the arbitrator and addresses the inner-workings of human psychology and interaction.

The novel follows Nick and Amy from New York to Missouri. It opens on their fifth wedding anniversary, the day of the disappearance. Predictably, all fingers point to the husband and his narrative begins to paint him as the antagonist. As each part of the novel unfolds, affinities divide and questions are raised about each side of the story and what it is that happened to ‘Amazing Amy’.

Deftly written with ominous twists woven into such an intricate plot, Gone Girl confidently oscillates between past and present. Notably, the story evokes shifting sympathies between the duelling voices of the protagonists. Whilst pernicious Amy and hard-done-by Nick are far from likeable Gillian Flynn manages to create moments of deep frustration and empathy for the characters.