Fiction – paperback; Vintage; 272 pages; 2003.
The narrator of this remarkable novel is Christopher Boone, a 15-year-old boy who has Asperger’s Syndrome, a form of autism, that means he is unable to understand human emotions. He is, however, highly intelligent and can rattle off all kinds of facts and figures, particularly those pertaining to his speciality — maths.
The book opens with Christopher stumbling upon a dead dog lying in his neighbour’s garden. The dog is pinned to the ground by a pitchfork. Immediately he decides to find out what happened to the dog and, inspired by his favourite fictional character, Sherlock Holmes, he launches a “murder investigation” that rocks both the local community and his own strangely mundane and ordered life.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time has won many awards — and with good reason. It’s one of those rare books, originally written for children but now popular with an increasing number of adults.
The language is simple, but this simplicity renders Christopher’s voice more powerful. You really get into his head and see the world through his emotionally dissociated mind. The charming diagrams and drawings littered throughout the book only add to this.
As you plough through each short chapter, you are able to piece together the revelations of Christopher’s investigation long before he is able to comprehend them. This gives the story further urgency, because you wish you could stop him from proceeding any farther, if not to shield him from the awful truth, at least to save his family from the emotional outfall. But Christopher plods on regardless in his own naive way, and there’s nothing you can do.
The great beauty of this lovely book is not just the narrator’s unique voice, it is Haddon’s careful balance between bleak comedy and great sadness. He never resorts to sentimentality, which only makes the pathos all the more real.
I loved this story and read it in two sittings. It’s original, witty and illuminating. No matter what your age, you’d be hard pressed to find a more interesting and page-turning novel.