Book Review – The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
Christopher is the epitome of autism: a
“developmental disorder characterized by impaired communication, extreme
self-absorption, and detachment from reality,” according to Webster’s
dictionary. His happiest daydreams are about solitude, sitting in a
capsule, adrift in outer space, away from every soul on Earth. How, you
might ask, can such a person solve a murder case?
Luckily, fate takes a hand. Like any good
mystery novel, Haddon’s story begins with the Christopher discovering
his neighbor’s murdered dog. It proves an irresistible enticement of
Christopher’s need to solve puzzles. So Christopher embarks on an
investigation that takes him from Swindon to London – a journey that
might as well be from the Earth to the Moon for an autistic teenager.
Witnessing Christopher negotiating the simple obstacles of daily life,
from purchasing a train ticket to getting directions from strangers, feels
as suspenseful as a chase on an English moor.
As Christopher observes his surroundings, we
can’t help but be moved by the uncanny simplicity with which he puts
things into perspective. It’s as if a secret panel, commonplace to all
those Victorian mystery novels, has suddenly opened and shed light on a
part of the world we’ve taken for granted. But while the identity of the
murderer is eventually discovered, Christopher Boone sadly remains an
Before I finished this review, the lights
suddenly winked out in New York and most of the East Coast. With no
electricity and little to do, I found an interesting activity to occupy my
time: I compiled a short list of things Christopher might like about power
outages. Here are just a few items:
1. All the lights are off, which means there
is no light pollution. I can see lots
of stars. If I look in one place in the sky and put my hands over
my ears, I can pretend I’m alone in outer space.
2. I can’t see anybody.
3. Nobody can see me.
Such diversions tell me that Christopher
will remain in my memory
I fear that would be rather one-sided. When
Christopher’s father stretches out his hand to make the only intimate
contact his son will allow him, it is a heartbreaking moment. Christopher
doesn’t seem to feel any tenderness. It’s just another fact in his
ongoing investigation: “We do this because sometimes Father wants to
give me a hug, but I do not like hugging people so we do this instead, and
it means that he loves me.” For those who desire affection from
Christopher, his Mom, his Dad, his instructor Siobhan at his school, the
case is far from closed.
“The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time,” by Mark Haddon, Random House, July 2003, 226 pages, ISBN 0385512104.