„The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time“ by Mark Haddon was first published in 2003 and has won numerous awards.
It’s told from the point of view of Christopher Boone, a fifteen-year- old boy who has the Asperger’s Syndrome. On the one hand he has problems reading facial expressions and understanding emotions, but on the other hand he knows much more about maths, physics and science than other teenagers or even adults do. Moreover, he hates being touched and the colours yellow and brown. He lives with his father and says that his mother is dead.
One evening, Christopher finds Wellington, his neighbour’s dog, who was killed with a garden fork. Christopher likes crime mystery novels and also liked Wellington, so he begins to investigate the murder of the dog. He starts writing a mystery crime novel about it (the book we read) because his teacher Siobhan advised him to write the kind of book he would like to read. His father doesn’t want him to question the neighbours about Wellington’s mysterious passing, so Christopher doesn’t tell him that he does. However, he claims that he always tells the truth, so when he doesn’t tell his father what exactly he’s doing when he isn’t at home, he only tells a white lie since he only omits things. So Christopher continues to identify the murderer – but since Christopher is not an average teenager, the search for the murderer and its outcome is against all expectation.
I really loved this book and as far as I know, it has been on the curriculum in England as well as in Germany (in English lessons, of course!). The great thing about the book is- although it is quite easy to read- the authentic depiction of a person who has the Asperger’s Syndrome. The way he thinks and how he deals with the unpredictable environment he’s living in isn’t artificial at all. Here’s a short example where he describes what causes a good day and a bad day for him:
Mr Jeavons, the psychologist at the school, once asked me why 4 read cars in a row made it a Good Day, and 3 red cars in a row made it a Quite Good Day, and 5 red cars in a row made it a Super Good Day, and why 4 yellow cars in a row made it a Black Day, which is a day when I don’t speak to anyone and sit on my own reading books and don’t eat my lunch and Take No Risks.
Another nice thing is the consistency: Christopher likes prime numbers, so the book’s chapters are only prime numbers- it doesn’t start with chapter one, it starts with chapter two. Moreover, he frequently lets his mind wander when he is in a situation that demands a deeper understanding of feelings or other people’s emotions. When he thinks of his deceased mother, he thinks where her body now is and why people think that there is a heaven.
His mother’s death doesn’t seem to bother him at first sight, but as the story progresses, it catches the reader’s eye that he frequently thinks of his mother, although he claims that he isn’t sad, because his mother isn’t there anymore „so I would be feeling sad about something that isn’t real and doesn’t exist. And that would be stupid.“ However, his thoughts are often about her, about things she did and said and that he sometimes thinks that his mother’s molecules are in the sky which shows that he is somehow touched by her death.
The book is full of drawings (e.g. smileys his teacher Siobhan uses to explain facial expressions to him), graphs and explanations of mathematical problems which make the novel unique and special- like Christopher. In my opinion Haddon shows brilliantly that people with the Asperger’s Syndrome are neither handicapped nor helpless- they just think and act differently than we do. If we just open up to them, we will discover human beings who are unique and special in their very own ways.
It is a book I highly recommend, not only for teens but also for adults- basically for everyone who is interested in the story and thoughts of a boy who isn’t average by any means. It can also be read and enjoyed by people learning English as a foreign language (Intermediate Level perhaps) since the vocabulary is quite simple, even when more complex issues are explained.
The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time
Vintage Books, 2004
ISBN: 978 0099 470 434