Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon

'Sakhi' Book Club May 2010 Pick

Mark Haddon’s “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time” is a fresh, poignant coming-of-age novel with a most unusual protagonist – a fifteen year old autistic boy.

Christopher Boone is like one of the mathematical puzzles he delights in. The workings of his mind will be baffling to most people. Unusually bright with a proclivity for math and logic, his autism renders him blind and tone deaf when it comes to emotion – unable to fathom the complex nuances in social behavior that form the substratum of human relationships. Like his hero, Sherlock Holmes, his is an intensely analytical and deductive mind. However, we live in a world that often flies in the face of logic.

Determined to solve the mystery of his neighbor’s ‘murdered’ dog, Christopher sets about finding clues, only to stumble upon a secret in his own family that unnerves him, and to discover a truth that he finds terrifying. This sends him on a journey that, for one with his particular disorder, tests the boundaries of his considerable courage and resilience.

This is a book that effortlessly held my attention from beginning to end. The few characters who people this narrative are wonderfully depicted. As seen from Christopher’s dispassionate viewpoint, they come across as fallible, but moving, in their all too human inadequacies. The most compelling of them, is of course, Christopher, who defies our pity, and emerges from his trial, truly heroic.

Mark Haddon’s language and style is pitch perfect to the needs of this story, its tone catching the eccentricities of its literal-minded narrator, and faithfully echoing the other characters. The prime-numbered chapters prove to be more than a gimmicky distraction, giving us a window into the mind of Christopher, as do the many pictorial images, puzzles and diagrams. We never lose sight of the fact that we are in the presence of a very unusual and beautiful mind.

“Mother used to say that Christopher was a nice name because it was a story about being kind and helpful, but I do not want my name to be a story about being kind and helpful. I want my name to mean me.”

The author desrves commendation for keeping this story unflinchingly true to the paradox of Christopher’s character.

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