I read a lot of books. In the main, they are for entertainment, but interspersed with the less serious, I’ll delve into a range of more serious matters relating to life, current (or past) affairs, and literature. I’ve just finished a book called ‘The Eagle Tree’ by Ned Hayes, a novel that I would rank as one of the most appealing that I have read for some while. There are two reasons for this: firstly, it is an outstanding novel in it’s own right, but secondly, it offers an eloquent and memorable insight into autism, humanity and ecology.
Autism had not been a topic on my radar screen until about 18 months ago when I started photographing the work of the Saracens’ Sport Foundation, and in particular, their projects working with children who are on the autism spectrum. It’s been a humbling experience not only to see the dedication of the leaders and volunteers within the Foundation working with these children, but also to witness up close, some of the social and behavioural challenges the children, and their families, face.
I could never claim to understand autism. In a lot of instances, the behaviour and social difficulties associated with the spectrum are too easily misinterpreted, misunderstood and attributed to the wrong causes. What Ned Hayes’ book achieves is a remarkable insight into the way the autistic hero, 14yr old March Wong’s mind works. Written in the first person,
it articulates his passion for climbing trees, and how he evaluates and interacts with other people. Mark Haddon’s book, ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time’ set a benchmark for anyone interested in autistic spectrum disorders; I would suspect that ‘The Eagle Tree’ is worthy of a similar accolade.