05 March 2010

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

Thoughts and Reflections:
I found this quite and interesting read. It is written simply and is able to capture the character through the narrative. The structure and use of diagrams also provide some insight into the mind of protagonist. I was certainly captivated right away. The opening allows for nothing else! From the opening moments I wasn’t able to put the book down and read it within a few days (again putting off all other work…)
In my opinion, one of the strongest components of the book was in revealing the mind and thought processes of the protagonist, Christopher, an autistic adolescent. Despite being a very logical mind, completely illogical things would upset him. The things are completely personal, there is no rhyme or reason, and therefore, no way of guessing what might set him off. On the other hand, things that would normally upset a person don’t seem to upset him. (I am refraining from providing examples so as to no give away any spoilers!) Furthermore, he has a video-graphic memory, but often struggles to understand his surroundings, or at least is unable to cope with his surroundings.
I was extremely frustrated with other characters response to Christopher. On the one hand I could see how maddening his behaviour could be. On the other hand, I felt public servants, such as policemen, should have the training to identity and be better able to respond to children with special needs. However, I have no idea how I would responds to such stubborn, illogical, and frustrating behaviour. I also wondered how much training and support his parents had undertaken in order to better understand their son. His mother especially hardly seemed able to interact with him. I found it completely maddening how the actions and bickering of Christopher’s parents caused such struggle in his own life, even potentially compromising his ability to write the A-level math exams. Finally, I had overwhelming compassion for his father. One bad reaction and he very nearly lost his son. However, it is a beautiful moment to see his perseverance and refusal to lose Christopher altogether.
All in all, I would certainly recommend this book. The form in itself is interesting, the plot captivating, and the characters are worth getting to know.

Point of Interest:
Not long ago whilst perusing the BBC, I came across an article on Savantism. Within a few pages into the book, I wondered whether Christopher had Savant Syndrome due to his excellent ability in maths. So, wanting to know a bit more, I did some research. Savant syndrome exists in persons with developmental disorders that have one or more areas of expertise, ability, or brilliance that are in contrast with the individuals overall limitations. One half of Savants are autistic, though only about one in ten autistic persons have Savant Syndrome. A scientist described savatism as a very deep, but exceedingly narrow understanding in a given field or ability. Interestingly, savantism is more than six times more common in males than in females! The 1988 film Rainman is likely the most commonly understood image of a savant.

The Author:
Mark Haddon was born in Northampton in 1962. He went on to study English at Merton College in Oxford. For a time, he worked with autistic youths. Most of his writing career has been in youth literature. However The Curious Incident was intended for an adult audience. Other projects have included children’s programs with the BBC. He is currently resides with his family in Oxford and works as a Fellow of Brasenose College.

Brief Synopsis:
The book is a narrative of the protagonist, Christopher, who is writing about past events in his own life. Christopher is autistic and lives with his father. At the beginning of the novel he discovers that someone has killed his neighbour’s dog with a gardening fork. He proceeds to try to solve the mystery, modeling his detective work after Sherlock Holmes. During his investigation he uncovers some interesting facts about his mother and father, which send him on a great and terrifying (especially for the reader) adventure.
The book won the Whitbread Book of the Year Award in 2003 and the Commonwealth Writers’s Prize Overall Best First Book in 2004.

Main Themes:
I think the overarching theme in this one is simply to provide insight into a mind as complex as Christopher’s. We are then able to see a variety of responses to him. The family as a unit is also an important theme: how the actions of some affect the whole and family unity.

Things I Loved About This Book:

1)The layout. Maths will forever remain a mystery to my mind, but the layout of this book was able to teach my mind, ever so slightly, how the very mathematical mind of Christopher worked

2)Christopher. Though at times I was exceedingly frustrated with his stubbornness, I was also very fond of this endearing character (and certainly feared for his life at times!)

3)Siobhan. She is Christopher’s teacher and one of the few characters that seem to really be able to understand such a complicated mind as Christopher’s. I also just like her name. It is pronounced She-von, however, before I understood the intricacies of Gallic script, I pronounced this name Sio-ban. It still makes me chuckle to think about it

4)The father. I felt terrible for him when Christopher ran away from him and began to shut him out of his life. However, I was so pleased at the perseverance of Christopher’s father to rebuild a positive relationship with him.


julienne said...

I also loved this book, Andrea--I read it in a day, it was so gripping. I loved seeing Christopher's father's love for him, so evident to the reader, even if Christopher could not understand it.

Anonymous said...

I just finished this book. My heart ached for the father. He made a terrible mistake, but was willing to try anything to keep Christopher in his life where he could not just see him , but interact with him and show him his love.
I will definitely recommend this book.
Janet R