Though I have a list of books to read for CBR Bingo, and stacks of books in my house unread, that certainly doesn’t stop me from checking out the NEW shelves at my local library: I mean, I’m not a monster. So, on my latest stopover to get books with the kiddo, I saw this shiny Mark Haddon novel calling my name. I read both A Spot of Bother and A Curious Incident of a Dog in the Night-Time and though I couldn’t for the life of me tell you what they are about, remember enjoying them so that was enough to be.
I was struggling to categorize this book: it’s essentially two stories in one, a present story of a father and daughter and the imagined retelling of the legend of Antiochus. (Which, when you say that out loud, makes very little sense). You really just have to experience it to understand. Haddon himself sums it up pretty well in the acknowledgements when he says, “The novel exists in a world where times, locations, languages, and cultures are laid one over the other with a cavalier disregard for historical and geographical fact…” It is historical fiction that is incredible well researched, but also takes much liberty in the telling. At its core it is a story about women who lose their agency and the men who try to impose their will upon them. It’s not a humorous novel, but it is engrossing and tought to walk away from. In addition, Haddon uses foreshadowing in a way that is delightfully jarring – he jolts you with impressions of what is to come.
This book is a fanciful and ambitious novel. I’m going to be thinking about it for a while, much like Saunders’ Lincoln in the Bardo Haddon does things that I haven’t seen before and I’m impressed with the depth and lengths he went to in order to write this book.