In 18th-century France, a child is captured in the forests near Aveyron where he seems to have been living wild for seven years. Now 12 years old, the Wild Boy is put on public display as a freak, and finally handed over to the ambitious, emotionally repressed Doctor Itard, who is charged with educating the boy, whom he names Victor, and trying to discover the secrets of his strange, secret life. But Victor soon becomes a pawn in the raging debate about nature vs nurture, and Itard's attempts to civilise him bear little fruit. Instead, Victor seems drawn to Mme Guerin, his motherly guardian - and to her vivacious daughter, Julie, who is herself falling for Itard as he struggles to understand both Victor and his own confused emotions. Giving a vivid sense of the Revolutionary period, the novel brings to life through the stories of three fascinating characters a mysterious case that resonates in the modern day preoccupation with autism.
Intriguing and deeply moving - Sunday Telegraph
An accomplished novel, rich with ideas and vivid characters, which is, above all, a lucid and moving exploration of the nature of autism. - Laura Baggaley, Observer
Fascinating and deeply sympathetic ... Ingenious, well-crafted and carefully researched, this novel questions what makes us human and leaves one a little wiser for it. - David Shukman, Daily Mail
The damaged child's frantic little body and fragile heart are an insistent, vivid presence on every page of [Dawson's] fine novel ... Dawson's prose is graceful, her approach deeply intelligent and persuasive. - Hilary Mantel
Excellent ... Dawson takes what is already a compelling tale and successfully fleshes it out into a convincing and highly moving book. - Michael Newton, Guardian