The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time
Reviewed by: Carrie Byrd
Review posted: 02/28/05
This is an interesting, well-written novel. With a fast moving and always intriguing story line, it’s difficult to put down. The voice of the main character is sympathetic and entertaining.
Much has been made of the fact that Christopher, the main character and narrator is an autistic child. Although his autism contributes to the frustration we hear in his voice and the difficulties he faces, never do you feel that he believes he is disabled at all. His unique voice takes an otherwise ordinary story and turns it into something special. Not because of his autism, but because of the way that he looks at the world. Christopher states that he likes Sherlock Holmes because Holmes was known for the way he used clear logic and simple observation to solve the most complicated mysteries. Watching Chris solve the mysteries he faces is a little like being inside that part of Sherlock’s mind. Watching Chris break down the mysteries he’s facing by observation and determination was fascinating. Equally interesting, however, were the relationships in Chris’s world. The painful difference between the ways Chris sees the world and the way the world sees him is clear, even from his perspective.
Chris’s near obsession with math and numbers builds the story, and the fact that the chapters are all prime numbers is a fun detail. But this novel is all about the details, and the narrator is completely focused on the details. He builds the big picture slowly, piece by piece. The illustrations inserted into the book help the reader to understand Christopher’s mind.
Author Haddon has done a wonderful job here. With television programs like Seventh Heaven perpetuating the idea that the mentally challenged are innocent “angels”, representing some sort of inexplicable archetype, Haddon has taken on the challenge of presenting a person, and not an imaginary ideal, making for a pleasant change from the way the media tends to represent the challenged and autistic.
I feel like I have spent too much time on Christopher’s autism. While in many ways it defines the book, it in no way defines the character. In fact, I would say that Chris defies definition. He sets and meets his own challenges, and refuses to be limited by other people.
More than anything else, though, Haddon has created a novel that is entertaining and worthwhile. At a time when it seems like some authors are more interested in getting their ideas across than in telling a good story, Hadden has put the story first, and written a book worth reading.