Not sheepish, but individ-ewe-al (livredor) wrote,
Not sheepish, but individ-ewe-al

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Book: The curious incident of the dog in the night-time

Author: Mark Haddon

Details: (c) Mark Haddon 2003; Pub Vintage 2004; ISBN 0-099-45025-9

Verdict: The curious incident of the dog in the night-time is readable and original.

Reasons for reading it: I've heard lots and lots of good things about The curious incident, from the media, from friends, from people who work with autistic kids. So I've been meaning to read it for a while. I also gave a copy to Thuggish Poet for his birthday, so I wanted to check if I'd made the right choice. Finally, I'm in the middle of A suitable boy right now, and while I'm enjoying that, I needed to take a break and read something else, something that's a fast read and is plot driven, and this fit the bill exactly.

How it came into my hands: I was suckered in by a special offer of last year's bestsellers for £4 in Tesco. This rather spoilt the average of 20p per book I'd been managing this week, but hey; I can afford to buy cut-price new books occasionally.

I enjoyed reading The curious incident of the dog in the night-time. I can see what the fuss is about because it's really very different from any other mainstream novel, but at the same time it's not pretentious or clever-clever, it works on the level of a straightforward story with engaging characters and a fast-paced plot.

The quirk of tCIotDitNT is of course that the narrator is a severely1 autistic teenager. I was pretty skeptical about this technique when I first heard of the book, but actually it does work rather well. Christopher's didactic approach means that he is able to inclue the reader about what is actually going on even though he does not understand the situation properly. He's sympathetic without being cute; for example, he explains his nonsensical reasoning for his obsessive behaviours so you that you can see why he needs to do such things while still realizing that the behaviours are essentially pathological.

tCIotDitNT also takes a very clear-eyed view of disability. It is funny and direct rather than sentimental, but it does not mock either Christopher or the other 'special needs' kids at his school. It gives a very strong impression of how hard it is for Christopher to get through normal life, portraying for example a train journey as a kind of epic adventure, but it doesn't demand that you feel sorry for him. And although Christopher has no real understanding of his parents' emotional lives, the book still conveys clearly the loneliness and exhaustion of their experience. tCIotDitNT really ought to be required reading for everyone who thinks that autistic spectrum traits make them cool and different.
So all in all tCIotDitNT is both fun and thought-provoking.

Addendum 8.8.04: I have now found hmw26's post where she talks knowledgeably about the book and about autism / autistic spectrum conditions in general.

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