It's taken me ten years to get around to reading Mark Haddon's debut novel, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. In fact, I wouldn't have read it if my book group wasn't reading it for last night's discussion. Christopher John Francis Boone, the main character, is autistic, and a savant in many ways. He's a fascinating character, and this is actually his story of a search for answers that aren't lies. Christopher can't tolerate lies.
When Christopher finds the neighbor's dog killed with a garden fork, he's determined to find the killer. Despite his fear of strangers, he makes a logical plan to talk to the neighbors and find out what they know. Sherlock Holmes would have done that, and Christopher likes the logic of the Sherlock Holmes stories. Although his father makes him promise to drop the investigation, Christopher can't let go.
And, this is the key to the story. As an autistic boy, the fifteen-year-old can't let go. He can't let go of his fears, but his determination to find answers triumphs fear. And, once he finds the disturbing answer, he can't live with it. He has to make another plan so he can carry on his logical, step-by-step life. If that means finding his way to London, he'll do it one step at a time.
Haddon, who once worked with autistic individuals, has created a character who is brilliant in some ways, and locked in his own world and fears in others. It's easy to see why his parents had such a difficult time coping with his needs. This book didn't work for me as a mystery, although some have called it that. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time really only works as a window into one young man's world. It's fascinating as a view of an autistic young man's life. At the same time, it's a claustrophobic book, one that I found difficult to get through.
Mark Haddon's website is www.markhaddon.com
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon. Doubleday. 2003. ISBN 0585509456 (hardcover), 226p.
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