The Right to Write

Posts Tagged ‘autism

“The dog was dead. There was a garden fork sticking out of the dog. […] The dog was called Wellington. […] I wondered who had killed Wellington and why.”

After reading just the first page of Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, which won the Whitbread Book of the Year award, you feel compelled to read more – if only to find out who killed Wellington. That is just how Mark Haddon intended it to be. His rationale was “Who on Earth is going to want to read about a fifteen-year-old kid with a disability living in [Swindon, London] with his father?”

However, as you read on, you find that it is not so much the plot that compels you to keep reading – but rather the extraordinary main character: Christopher Boone, the story’s narrator. Christopher, a 15 year old boy with Asperger’s syndrome, can tell you every country in the world and their capital cities and every prime number up to 7, 507. But he finds feelings baffling.

The book dives into Christopher’s unusual mind, and much of what makes the book so fascinating is Christopher’s quirks, characteristics, likes and dislikes. This is what makes the book unique. He is a fan of Sherlock Holmes – whose adventures are his motive for telling the story – thus the title of the book is taken from a remark made by Sherlock Holmes’ in the short story “Silver Blaze” written by Arthur Conan Doyle; he is also a fan of prime numbers – the chapters are numbered by prime numbers.

However, when on some pages every sentence starts with “and” you start feel a little annoyed. Yet you can’t help but feel refreshed by it as it adds to the books authenticity. Much of the rest of the book invokes a similar love/hate relationship with Christopher himself and the people around him, which gives you a sense of the way Christopher’s mind works and how differently he feels (or doesn’t feel) in certain situations.

Mark Haddon

Although Mark Haddon used to work with children with autism, it was way back when – when autism didn’t even have a name. Contrary to popular belief, the book was not intended as a book about autism, but started as one about a poodle that was killed by a pitch fork. As he continued writing, Haddon found that it was a funny story, but only because of the voice he was writing the story with – Christopher’s.

Ironically, though feelings confuse Christopher, his story makes many readers feel like crying while reading one page, and laughing while reading the next. It is this effect that makes the book so special, un-put-downable and re-readable – and thanks to this book’s extraordinary insight into a mind so different from our own, after reading this story, you may never see the world in the same way again.

May 2020


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