Archive | February, 2016

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time, by Mark Haddon (2003)

19 Feb

“Show, don’t tell”; this is one of the pieces of fiction writing advice I’ve read or heard (probably more than once).  And this wonderful novel ignores it – to great effect!

The novel is written in the first person, from the viewpoint of Christopher Boone, a 15-year old boy with Asperger’s Syndrome.  And his narrative is very much “Tell; just tell them what happened; don’t bother with those rules”.  The result is starkly different to many novels as the narrative is a staccato ‘I said-he said-I said-he said-I did-he did’ rather than the more fluid prose that you may be used to.  But the benefit is that this gives a clear insight into Christopher’s logical mind.  A mind that is led by precise, ‘digital’ (rather than ‘analogue’) thinking, without shades of meaning or vagaries.  The mind of someone fascinated by mathematics and by the way the world and universe work.

I should stress that I’m not criticising ‘analogue’ thinking and vagaries at all; I’m merely saying that the author uses the aforementioned narrative style as a very effective indicator of the main character’s mindset and personality. There is a place for each type of thinking in this world.

Spoiler Alert: this post contains some details of the story; however, there is still plenty of the story left unrevealed.

Christopher clearly has an acute case of Asperger’s Syndrome and while the reader is shown the positives of this, such as his brilliant intellect, the story does not shy away from the more difficult aspects of his condition, but it does so in a manner that is sympathetic without being patronising.  The reader is shown Christopher’s immense difficulties in navigating situations that are everyday situations to most of us, as well as his difficulties in physical navigation, e.g. the streets of his town.  Also, there are the difficulties his parents face in trying to protect and take care of him.  The result of all these difficulties is a sometimes heart-breaking story (but one that ends well).  It is also quite endearing and could very well help society understand Asperger’s Syndrome much better.

This story takes a fairly simple plot – investigation into who killed the neighbour’s dog – and turns it into a fascinating and engaging story.  The real story is Christopher’s mind; the events that occur seem almost ancillary.

Oh, and the numbering of chapters with prime numbers is a nice touch!