When I initially began to read The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, as a reader, I felt very disorientated. The way it is written is not what I expected and it took me a while to re-orientate myself to this new way of writing. I guess that is the whole point of the book.It is written from the point of view of a boy named Christopher. He has aspergers and despite no clarification from himself that he has this condition, he told me all I needed to know about it through the way he describes his thoughts. This is probably a good thing because after doing some research on the topic, even medical professionals find it hard to give a definitive description of the symptoms.
A definition I found on the austism.org website states, ‘It is a spectrum condition, which means that, while all people with autism share certain difficulties, their condition will affect them in different ways.’ I therefore found it interesting to learn from the perspective of Christopher about autism and despite him being a fictional character created by writer Mark Haddon (who also happened to work with children with autism) I learnt a lot about it all.
The book is presented as a detective story, Christopher trying to find out who killed his neighbor’s dog, but in reality it is much more to do with the way Christopher carries out his daily life and in turn how the people around him interact with him.
Christopher is incapable of lying and reading facial expressions. He hates the colours yellow and brown for specific reasons and does not like to be touched. He groans when he is frightened as a coping mechanism to block out what is happening. But despite all this, it seems as though, when he puts his mind to something he can achieve incredible things. Like getting an A for his A Level at aged 15. Something I couldn’t even do now.
My favourite parts of the book are when Christopher describes the discussions he has with his teacher, Siobhan. It demonstrates that this woman really understands and cares for him on a professional level. I presume, through training, she has learnt what it is like for people who have aspergers and can therefore use her knowledge to talk to Christopher in a way that he will understand and is therefore able to help him. This relates to what I meant by re-orientating myself to the new way of writing – being the point of the book. After I gave the book a chance, by altering my perspective, I was able to enjoy it. Just like Siobhan has altered her perspective of the natural way humans behave in order to relate to Christopher.
I assume that many people figured out who killed Wellington before it was revealed and I suppose that is sort of a lesson in itself about how people with asperger ingest information. The fact that what we all figured out quite quickly did not become apparent to Christopher until the facts were presented right in front of him, is part of his condition. ‘I find people confusing. […] The first main reason is that people do a lot of of talking without using any words. Siobhan says that if you raise one eyebrow it can mean lots of different things.’ The inability to read between the lines or gain an understanding of what they may be thinking by the expressions they pull is something Christopher finds hard.
In his attempt to discover who murdered his neighbours dog, Christopher manages to unearth secrets his father and neighbours have kept hidden for years. Putting Christopher in a dire state and forcing him to face many fears in his attempt to go beyond the end of his street. This is where the book becomes a real page turner as you want to find out how he copes in the big ol’ world.
I recently read a post featured on some site on my Facebook wall, about a Broadway actor named Kelvin Moon Loh. How he felt compelled to write something about a time when an autistic boy ‘disrupted the fantasy that is supposed to be this matinee performance’. He was appalled at the way the rest of the audience treated the boy and his mother, who was desperately trying to remove her son from the theatre. I felt a great sense of respect towards Kelvin, for speaking out about what happened and this was because I had gained an understanding of what it is like to live with an autistic child, thanks to this book. The book acted as a great eye opener for me and I therefore think that everyone should read it so that they do not react the way those people in the theatre did.
Admittedly the book can be tedious, just how I imagine living with a person with aspergers may be but it is also comical, enlightening and worth a read.