It was 7 minutes after midnight.
***Read as part of the Through the Wardrobe Debut Novels Challenge***
Reading The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time is a wonderfully immersive experience. Readers are plunged straight into the mind of Christopher Boone, a fifteen-year-old boy who suffers from a neurodevelopmental disorder (we are not told specifically but it is assumed to be Autism or Asperger’s). His world is ordered, precise and meticulously planned, and he favours prime numbers and his pet rat Toby over people. But when he discovers the mysterious looking corpse of his neighbour’s dog, Christopher decides to investigate and his world begins to unravel.
Though this insightful and almost claustrophobic look into to the mind of Christopher has often divided reader opinion, for me, the narrative was the most beautiful and unique part of the story. It’s a refreshingly raw and painfully honest narrative of a boy who is not only growing up and learning that the world is chaotic and complex but who is grappling this understanding with a unique view of the world, as he believes it should be. Rather than anything gimmicky or artificially patronising, this book has an effortless realism to it that transforms it into Christopher’s real diary with the narrative very much his voice.
Not only is the narrative voice so independently strong, the structure of the book also reflects the nature of Christopher’s mind, with prime numbered chapters and the inclusion of mathematical challenges and puzzles. Deviations from the story that appear completely illogical are justified with ingenious logic and add to the understanding of Christopher himself. Through Christopher’s eyes you witness the frustration, pain and despair of his father and come understand Christopher’s unintentional ignorance of it, a fact that is utterly heart breaking.
Haddon never labels Christopher under any medical or neurological heading; he just explores this wonderfully complex character in the guise of a very simple, everyday context. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time is an extraordinary book that may disorientate you in the beginning but will open your eyes by the close.