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Friday, November 26, 2004

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, by Mark Haddon

Christopher is fifteen years old. He lives in Swindon, England, with his father. He knows all the prime numbers up to 7,057. He can name all the countries in the world, and their capital cities. He hates the colours yellow and brown. He loves animals and keeps a pet rat, Toby. Soon he's going to be sitting his Maths A-level.

But Christopher has behavioural problems: he does not like being touched; he smashes things and screams when he gets angry or confused; he never smiles; and he refuses to eat food if it is touching another sort of food. Christopher is autistic.

One night, Christopher discovers his neighbour's poodle, Wellington, lying dead in the garden. Christopher decides to become a detective and find the killer. This book is his story. Because he cannot comprehend figures of speech or use sarcasm or even imagine things which did not happen, Christopher writes this book as a series of faithfully recorded conversations and observations. A detailed diary of this thoughts and actions.

Haddon's debut novel is a disturbing book. Although it is funny in parts it is awfully sad in others. The author succeeds in exposing to the reader the world of an autistic child (Haddon worked with autistics) by avoiding the pitfalls of excessive sentimentalism or exploitation of a sensitive subject. It is easy to fall in love with Christopher, who needs to cope not only with his disability but also with a dysfunctional family that is breaking apart around him.

I can only hope that when the movie version of this book is made, it will not be a soppy schmaltz like "Rain Man".

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