Hey friends, Julia here.
I recently finished a book called The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime by Mark Haddon, and I wanted y’all to know about it, because it was amazing.
It’s pretty much your typical bildungsroman (aka. Coming-of-age story) about a young English boy named Christopher, except for one minor detail…
He screams whenever someone touches him, panics when the furniture is rearranged, won’t eat food that is yellow or brown, takes instructions very literally, listens to the white noise from the radio to drown out the chaos of the world when he can’t process it all at once, and is brilliant at maths.
I am by no means an autism expert, and I’m pretty sure autism takes many different forms depending on the person, but, in my humble opinion, this was an excellent representation.
The basic premise is simple: Christopher likes dogs. Christopher finds a dead dog in his neighbor’s yard. Christopher decides to investigate the death of the dog and discovers a lot about himself along the way.
Yes, it is a very simple narrative, but it doesn’t need to be anything else. It’s BRILLIANT as it is.
Because Christopher is the one narrating the story.
Isn’t that fantastic? And it’s fascinating how that one little detail changes the meaning of the whole story.
Because honestly, this story is NOT about the plot.
Christopher thinks it is. That’s why he’s telling it. He thinks he’s writing a detective story, but he’s really writing a character study of himself.
For the first time ever (at least that I’m aware of), a character with a mental illness gets to advocate for himself. For the first time, someone with autism is considered a valid protagonist for a novel, and Christopher’s perspective is taken seriously as one that can be understood by us boring normal people.
He is not patronized, and he is not put down in this representation because he gets to represent himself, and it’s beautiful.
The prose is written with succinct, straightforward, Hemingway-esqe style and a very logical structure. Also the chapters are numbered with prime numbers because the simultaneous simplicity and complexity of prime numbers comforts him.
Christopher takes the time to explain his understanding of the world and why he is the way he is when he interacts with people.
And when you see the world from Christopher’s perspective, you realize that yes, he is clearly different from me in certain ways and faces different struggles. But he’s not some alien creature that people just have to deal with.
He’s a well-rounded, sympathetic protagonist that I found myself identifying with on several occasions.
Was this book well-written? Yes.
Was the ending a little sloppy? Yes, unfortunately.
But overall did this book totally blow my mind about the inner life of an autistic boy?
And that, my friends, is why you should read The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime by Mark Haddon.