The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time
By Mark Haddon
Published in 2003
Published by Vintage Contemporaries (this edition)
I took this little gem with me on my morning commute into Taipei city from TaoYuan yesterday. Usually the 35 minutes drags by with me counting down the stations until I finally arrive but yesterday was different. The stations whizzed by with me wrapped around the pole in the centre of the carriage, nose buried in this book. I was so engrossed I was scared to read it on the MRT just in case I missed my station.
This novel commences with a 'take no prisoners' opening - Wellington, the neighbourhood dog, has been killed by a garden fork. The narrator and protagonist, Christopher Boone, an autistic 15 year old, makes this gruesome discovery on one of his late night walks and decides to solve the mystery of who has killed Wellington in the vein of his favourite detective, Sherlock Holmes. Along the way, he uncovers some disturbing truths that rock the foundations of his carefully ordered world.
Written as a first person narrative, the reader gets an insight into the workings of somebody with autism. Mark Haddon had worked with autistic individuals when he was younger, according to my edition's author notes. Seeing the world through Christopher's eyes you vividly feel the overload of information and the stress that everyday life that we all take for granted causes him. I could relate somewhat to his feelings of being overloaded as there were times when I first moved here to Taiwan where it all just felt too much - stimulation overload - and I would have greatly liked to have just sat and rocked in a corner.
In addition to being an insight into the world of those who suffer from autism, this is a raw and honest look at the effects that caring for a child with special needs can have on parents, completely without passing judgement or taking some sort of moral high ground. It made me think - what if that were my child? How could I handle it? Indeed, would I be able to handle it? The characterisation of Christopher's parents is unflinching and in my opinion, it is this honesty that makes this book so valuable.
Overall, this book is an absolutely cracking read. Although you'll probably find that you'll get through it very quickly, it isn't a book that you will forget any time soon. Now I can see why people have been telling me to read this book for so long - so if you haven't already read it, now I'm telling you. This one is a must-read.