Monday, 15 April 2013

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

Mark Haddon
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is a murder mystery novel like no other. The detective, and narrator, is Christopher Boone. Christopher is fifteen and has Asperger's Syndrome. He knows a very great deal about maths and very little about human beings. He loves lists, patterns and the truth. He hates the colours yellow and brown and being touched. He has never gone further than the end of the road on his own, but when he finds a neighbour's dog murdered he sets out on a terrifying journey which will turn his whole world upside down.

This is one of those books that I was constantly “getting around” to reading. The kind of book that constantly peeks out at you from book shelves begging for your attention. The sad fact usually is that these are the kind of books that usually I never read, figuring that I’ve built them up so much that I can only be disappointed.
So it is with great pleasure that I can announce that not only have I finally read The Curious incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, but I also loved it.

The book tells the story of Christopher, a boy diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome who becomes interested in solving the mystery of who has murdered his neighbour’s dog Wellington.

I raced through this book, finding it genuinely difficult to stop whenever I picked it up. I’m a big fan of books that use the medium of the book itself in the story and that’s what you have here as the main character, Christopher, peppers the novels with charts, images, mathematical formula and various other items that help to illustrate his thought processes.
I have no real experience of Autism though I have spent time with people diagnosed with the disorder and I found the author’s portrayal to be very true to life. Christopher, struggles to understand the world around him, other characters emotions and even what makes for traditional narrative structure. He constantly flits between the actual point of the story and something interesting that has just crossed his mind. Jumping from his investigation, to origins of words or an explanation of constellations.
Haddon uses the inclusion of the charts and images to further emphasise the inner workings of Christopher’s mind. This is perhaps used best when Christopher panics in the middle of a train station and the page is filled with a scramble of logos for all the various shops and cafes around the station. 

I don’t think I have ever had such a troubling relationship with a fictional character as I did with Christopher. He is simultaneously heartbreaking and infuriating. You’ll find yourself wanting to protect him from a world he struggles to understand but you’ll also find yourself just wanting to scream at him as his selfishness hurts everyone around him, you’ll then flip again as you realise he can’t help his selfishness and feel sympathy for him again. It’s an intense struggle to go through as a reader and shows very effectively how difficult it must be to have people diagnosed with Asperger’s in your life as well as how hard it must be to live with the disorder.

I found this a highly entertaining and illuminating novel and I don’t think I’ve ever read anything quite like it.

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