After everyone and their dog have read it (pun unintended), I got around to reading The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time. Written by Mark Haddon, the novel follows a mathematically gifted autistic pre-teen Christopher as he tries to find out who killed his neighbour’s dog. He discovers Mrs. Shears’s dog Wellington dead one night with a garden fork sticking through it. Being an avid reader of Sherlock Holmes’s mysteries, Christopher decides to find out the culprit. The detection leads him and his loved ones through an emotional journey causing much grief and in the end, a bit of happiness.
The book is narrated by Christopher himself as he tries to jot down his adventure. We get to see/hear/smell the world through the eyes/ears/nose of an autistic child. Being born with a kind of autism called Asperger Syndrome, Christopher sees mathematical numbers and patterns in everything around him. Unlike other humans, his moods and decisions are heavily influenced by these patterns. His social and communication skills are severely stunted and he needs the help of his dad to look after himself. More than the dog murder mystery (which is actually pretty lame), the book generates a lot of thought about autism. Christopher’s autistic view of the world is vivid and absorbing. Also, the reader gets to see the hardships of a family tending to such a child and how society treats them. These are what make this book stand out.
TCIOTDIN won the Whitbread Book Of The Year award in 2003. It is a small book and can be read in a noon.
- Chapters in the book are numbered in prime numbers. Christopher says he did this because:
“Prime numbers are what is left when you have taken all the patterns away. […] prime numbers are like life. They are very logical but you could never work out the rules, even if you spent all your time thinking about them.”
- The book’s protagonist solves mathematical equations and puzzles in his head when he is emotionally disturbed to make those feelings go away. One of these puzzles is the Conway’s Soldiers. The intrigue in this puzzle is that no matter how big a board or how large the number of soldiers you start out with, you discover that you cannot move beyond 4 rows.
- The Monty Hall Problem also makes an appearance in the book. P had discussed this problem in detail on his journal. Back then I had said that though I could understand the proof, I did not feel it was right in my gut. In this book, the proof is depicted using a simple figure. On looking at it, it immediately became clear to me! 🙂
- The book’s subject might look serious, but the book is infact quite fun to read. Here is an example:
(Christopher is at a train station ticket counter. He is trying to buy a ticket to London. He’s never been to a train station before in his life.)
And then there was no one else in front of the window and I said to the man behind the window, “I want to go to London,” […]
And the man said, “Single or return?”
And I said, “What does single or return mean?”
And he said, “Do you want to go one way, or do you want to go and come back?”
And I said, “I want to stay there when I get there.”
And he said, “For how long?”
And I said, “Until I go to university.”
And he said, “Single, then,” and then he said, “That’ll be £32.”