28 September 2008

200 word review: 'The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time' by Mark Haddon

It’s a brave author who narrates a novel from the perspective of a teenage boy. Braver still is the author who narrates a novel from the perspective of a teenage boy with Asperger’s syndrome. Mark Haddon does this so convincingly, it made me wonder whether he was autistic (apparently not, but he has worked with autistic children.)

The story of ‘The Curious Incident …’ starts out simply – Christopher finds his neighbour’s dog killed and decides to find the murderer. Using this simple concept, Haddon not only explores the workings of Christopher’s mind, but also the repercussions that autism can have on a family and community. The reading experience is at times unsettling, particularly when the main narrative is interrupted by Christopher’s thoughts about science, but this creates awareness of how unsettling the world must be to a child who notices absolutely everything in a room but cannot understand jokes, irony or metaphors.

Apparently Haddon was surprised when his publishers suggested marketing this novel to both adults and children. However, I think this novel should be part of the national curriculum; not only is it a sound literary work, it may also create more acceptance of autistic children in mainstream education.

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