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

I knew nothing about Mark Haddon, other than that he's the author of this book; apparently he's been a children's writer for a while, but this was his first novel intended for the teenage market. I've seen it reviewed positively many times; it seems to be one of the cross-over books that appeals to adults as well as teens. But somehow I had resisted buying it.. until I found it second-hand on a recent visit to the UK.

'The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time' is an award-winning novel, written from the perspective of fifteen-year-old Christopher a lad with Asperger's Syndrome (a condition on the autistic spectrum). He is a brilliant mathematician, and incredibly observant with an almost photographic memory for detail. Yet at the same time he is terrified of new situations, and is totally unable to read expressions on people's faces, or to understand metaphors.

Christopher attends a special school, and lives with his father, who is mostly very patient with him.

The story opens one night when Christopher discovers a neighbour's dog, who is dead - with a garden fork through its body. He likes mystery stories, and decides to do some detecting, to see if he can discover who did the deed. He is logical and methodical, but very bad at talking to people he doesn't know.

In the course of this relatively short novel, Christopher discovers some astonishing things, and makes some very courageous steps towards more independent living. The author takes us right into the brain of a high-functioning autistic person, showing how he perceives new situations.

We also see the techniques Christopher has been taught for coping, and his own thought processes as he learns to deal with new places and circumstances.

The writing is excellent. I could hardly put the book down. My only slight reservation is that there's more bad language than I like - but it wasn't inappropriate or excessive.

All in all, highly recommended.

Review copyright Sue's Book Reviews, 7th July 2008.

1 comment:

Steve Hayes said...

Yes, definitely not your average whodunit!