Title: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

Author: Mark Haddon

Date Finished: 06/04/12

Re-Read? : Yes – Second time read

Challenges? : No

Overall: 4/5 – rather good

I first read this book when I was about 12 and I remember really enjoying it.  However, I couldn’t remember much about what happened – just the main event and not really how that came about, so I decided (about 6 months ago!) that it was going on the re-read list.

The “unique selling point”, as it were, of this book is the fact that it is narrated by a boy with a form of autism (the specific condition is never detailed and even though ‘Asperger’s Syndrome’ appears on the cover of one edition, Haddon claims it is not specifically about Asperger’s, as he is not an expert in the subject).

Regardless, Haddon actually conveys the logical and illogical thoughts of an autistic child extremely well and I felt as though I understood autism much more after reading this book.  I don’t know how accurately the disorder is portrayed, but it was certainly an eye-opener for me, both time that I read it.

Before I go on to talk about the plot and characters etc, I have to say that this book is a children’s book, or at least, it is commonly read as a children’s book (I was only about 12 the first time I read it).  Despite this, I believe it is one of those (very rare) books that bridges the reading gap between all ages.  I remember really enjoying the story when I was 12, yet I wasn’t bored when I was re-reading; contrastingly, I got more out of it the second time.  I think I will be reading this again in 5 or 10 years and definitely recommending to all ages.

The plot is really really good! Especially for a ‘children’s’ book!  There is the main mystery, the titled ‘Curious Incident‘, which is quite interesting, but Christopher, the protagonist, actually discovers quite a few mysteries along the way.  I was definitely reading very quickly, which shows it was a good story, and polishing this book off in 2 days alone speaks for itself!

I really liked the way there is more to the book than just the story – there are little puzzles, narrations of past events, lessons and contemplations too; and these just help with understanding how the mind of someone on the autistic spectrum works.

Character-wise, this book is good.  You remember the characters because there aren’t many and they are mainly family or neighbours of Christopher.  One who stood out for me was Siobhan, a teacher at Christopher’s school who really seems to understand and sympathise with him.  She teaches him strategies for situations that he can’t deal with, like when there is too much going on, to count up to 50 slowly (although Christopher cubes the numbers in his head too!) for example.  This was quite touching.

It was interesting to see how the different characters dealt with Christopher: which ones were tolerant, scared, annoyed, confused, exasperated, and more by him; I liked the way you could almost see yourself and people you know in some characters, and it really made me think about how different people cope with socially-difficult people.

The prose was quite basic in the novel, as it is meant to be a book written by Christopher himself.  However, there are certainly many pros to this: it is really easy to understand, you can read it quickly, the book is accessible for all readers, and it helps you understand the autism more clearly.

Furthermore, the straightforward and logical format to the prose (most paragraphs consist of a sentence, then several sentences beginning with ‘so’ as Christopher describes what he did) does reflect Christopher’s way of thinking too – he doesn’t understand big fancy descriptions or sophisticated imagery.  Indeed, he comment on the silliness of metaphors, as he can’t understand why you would say something is something different to what is actually is, and that made quite hilarious reading.

All in all, I really felt as though I had learned something from this novel, as well as just enjoying it.  I hope that it continues to be as popular as it has been over the last 10 or so years and that it encourages more people to a) be more tolerant to people on the autistic spectrum and b) read more, as it is so accessible.

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