Saturday, 11 June 2011

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon

This has been on my TBR list for over a year, and I finally got round to reading it on the plane home yesterday. I found it a really quirky and ususual book, and one that I thoroughly enjoyed. I even preferred it to his second novel, A Spot of Bother.

The book is told in the first person by Christopher Boone, a fifteen year old boy who is autistic. He doesn't really understand humour or emotions - at least when displayed by other people - he can't stand being touched and finds social interactions very difficult, but he loves routine, maps, forward planning and maths problems.

The dog of the title belongs to Christopher's neighbour, and is found by Christopher one morning, having been murdered with a garden fork in its side. Christopher, who is a great admirer of the logical thinking of Sherlock Holmes, decides to investigate and see if he can find out the identity of the killer. His investigations lead him to make some startling discoveries about his own family, and culminate in an exciting adventure on a train.

The clever thing about this book is the way it deals with family issues which are highly emotive, but does it from the viewpoint of a boy who cannot feel emotion. Where we would be shocked, angry, hurt and upset, Christopher is strictly logical and matter-of-fact, and his only fear is for his physical safety. He makes decisions for purely logical reasons and, while we can't really argue with this approach, we know that if we had been in the same position ourselves we would never have reacted in the same way.

Christopher's observations are often wildly funny to us, though Christopher himelf would never understand why we would find them so, and he is endearingly perplexed when people find things amusing. I found that The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time taught me more than any well-meaning documentary about the way an autistic person's mind works, and I'm sure I would understand someone with this problem much better for having read this book.

Both Mark Haddon's books have been full of observational humour and have crafted interesting stories from otherwise mudane and ordinary life. I love this style - a sort of kitchen-sink comedy - and will definitely be pre-ordering his next novel, which is surely long overdue.

2 comments:

  1. I enjoyed this book too, and feel the same as you. This helped me understand better than any dry information.

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  2. The point of view is so original and is very realistic, and seeing the world through the eyes of an autistic teenager is truly an amazing experience. The book is very intellectualy stimulating, and it's makes you look at everyday life in a different light. The story is very real, and Mark Haddon does a wonderful job describing painful situations without making the novel too dreary. It made me laugh as well as tear up. The curious incident of the dog in the night-time is a one-of-a-kind read that you won't regret giving a try.

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