Monday, May 05, 2008

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

First sentence: It was 7 minutes after midnight.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is Mark Haddon's debut novel and is beautifully written in the first-person narration. The story is about a fifteen-year-old autistic boy named Christopher John Francis Boone who is mathematically gifted and socially hopeless. He is superbly logical and sees everything literally based on patterns, rules and diagrams. You'll be able to observe this by the way the book is being written.

One night, Christopher sees his neighbor's poodle, Wellington, lying on the grass. He takes a look and finds the poor pooch killed by a garden fork. Mrs Shears, Wellington's owner calls the police and have him arrested when she finds him cradling her dead dog in his arms. Christopher's father immediately comes and gets him out of prison. The autistic boy resolves to solve the mystery of who killed Wellington. His father protests against it. Christopher employs the techniques he learned from reading Sherlock Holmes. He also starts writing a book (this book) detailing his observations and detecting endeavours - a project encouraged by his friend and teacher, Siobhan. She says the book must only describe what is interesting and not everything that Christopher comes across (knowing his condition). She is the only one who truly understands how to deal with him.

Christopher's book (or Mark Haddon's book) is full of illustrations and diagrams. This is one of things that got me interested in the book in the first place. The chapter numbering is not like the conventional numbering. Each chapter is given its own prime number (2, 3, 5, 7, 11, 13 and so on) because Christopher likes prime numbers. He has many other quirky likes and dislikes which you will find out as you read it.

This is an unusual book that takes you into the world of an autistic person. You will read about the disconnection between Christopher's mind and emotions. In the story, you will also see how Christopher's condition affects his parents and as a result of that, a dysfunctional family. Both of his parents try their best but nobody's perfect.

I love it. It's a fun read, filled with humour and pain. You really shouldn't miss out on this one.

Note: My colleague, Yee Cheng lend me the book, which I have totally enjoyed. It was a surprise from her. Thanks very much, YC!