I liked Mark Haddon’s debut novel about a 15 year old boy who discovers a neighbor’s dog dead-impaled with a garden fork. He then sets about doing a bit of detecting in an effort to discover the identy of the killer. Following in the footsteps of Flowers for Algernon we see the world through Christopher’s eyes-a world that is at times greatly different from the world most of us live in.
Christopher over explains everything-when he introduces himself he explains the history of the name ‘Christopher’ and how he doesn’t really like what it means. He is autistic, and the back of the audiobook says he has Asperger syndrome, which is often a very high functioning form of autism-but not always. Christopher is only high functioning when it comes to math and logic. He hates being around strangers, he hates being touched, he hates having different types of food touch on his plate, he hates yellow and brown, and he most especially hates France.
The mystery of a dog’s murder is solved about halfway through the book, but The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time isn’t really about the murder, it’s about Christopher and his otherworldly views. It was funny and heart wrenching and above all, a well crafted novel. Is Christopher an accurate representation of a child with autism? Does it matter? My own experience with kids with autism is that they are unresponsive and often make noises to themselves and occasionally make loud noises, just as Christopher does. There is a broad spectrum of autism and Mark Haddon gives us a glimpse into one slice of that spectrum here-but this a story, not a real life story like John Elder Robison’s Look Me In The Eye. Christopher doesn’t like look to at people either. Christopher reminds me a bit of Daniel Tammet, who is a British aspergian super genius who thinks rather a lot of himself.
Like most British dramedy, there are no heroes in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, except for a teacher who remains off screen for the entire story. Christopher and his family are textbook examples of dysfunctional. The random strangers Christopher meets ignore his obvious helplessness,. The policemen he meets seem to have never heard of mental disabilities and regard him as just another teenage twit. There are a lot of funny bits, but they are often at the expense of Christopher. He doesn’t like being laughed at. But then, who does?