Sunday, 10 February 2013

The Curious Incident ... by Mark Haddon

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

Publication date:  31st July 2003
Publisher:  Vintage 
Literary Fiction

Since it's the 10th anniversary of the publication of this book and the play is currently on at the Apollo Theatre in London, it seemed like a good time to find out what all fuss is about. Now I know.

Even though I knew this book had done well in terms of popularity, I was not quite prepared for just how GOOD it was – it was brilliant!

The story is told by 15 year old Christopher Boone and starts with him discovering that his neighbour’s dog, Wellington, is dead.  He finds the dog in his neighbour’s garden skewered with a garden fork so he realises the dog has been murdered and decides he is going to find out who is responsible.

From the very beginning we come to discover that there is something unusual about Christopher by the way he expresses himself.  He reveals that he is very good at mathematics, chess and puzzles but has great difficulty understanding the way people communicate with each other.  He does not like physical contact of any kind and has an aversion to the colours yellow and brown to the point where he has to avoid these things (as much as possible) in order to live a comfortable life.

The word autistic is never mentioned in the novel but not only does the story reveal to us that Christopher is autistic, it also shows us what it would be like because we are in his head.  I found this fascinating and it helped me understand the condition – which I realise I really had no clue about until I read this book.   So for example, Christopher reveals that he does not trust people easily and only feels comfortable with people he knows.  This is not so unusual but for him strangers represent danger and he fears them.  Most of us take for granted that we don’t only use words to communicate but body language and facial expressions.  Also we speak in metaphors and use sayings that literally don’t make any sense.  Christopher’s mind has difficulty processing this sort of stuff and it affects him in a negative way.  He needs to be told ‘a spade is a spade’.  At the same time, we learn that he has an incredible memory.  He describes accessing a memory like watching a DVD and having the ability to rewind to a particular part and replay events exactly as they occurred the first time.  As a result, he has amazing ability when it comes to attention to detail.

I loved the way the narration is so simple to understand and yet so clever.  The plot is such that a lot of the story is written between the lines – Christopher sets about discovering who murdered Wellington and in doing so, reveals to us the murky private lives of those around him.  Unfortunately, the mystery (and murkiness) is linked very closely to his parents and, because we as readers know what is going on before Christopher does, one cannot help but feel for him as we anticipate the storm on the horizon.

When Christopher discovers the truth it takes him on an incredible journey (literally) that is fraught and very much an ordeal.  You could say that part of the story is ‘difficult’, but it showed just how brave a character he was.

I found myself getting angrier with his parents to the point where I felt that his autism wasn’t the worst thing that he had to deal with, it was the misfortune of being stuck with a couple of selfish idiots for parents!  In truth, they weren’t bad people, they were just human – and trying to cope with a very difficult situation themselves.

I could not fault this book.  It will be an all-time favourite and one I will revisit (probably time and time again).

My appeal to readers

No comments:

Post a Comment