The Curious Incident

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by David Haddon has sold millions of copies, and is now a Broadway play. The book takes us into the mind of Christopher, a high-functioning autistic fifteen-year-old in contemporary Britain. Inside that mind, behavior that seems so odd if not down-right crazy actually begins to make sense.

If you

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see everything (I mean, everything), if your mind is incapable of skipping over every leaf of a tree so you can’t see the tree, every bird in the sky so you can’t see a flock and zeroing in on one conversation because you hear every single conversation in the din around you–well, then you may well try to shut out all that massive stimulation by curling up in a ball and moaning to yourself. That actually seems like a very reasonable strategy.

Haddon packs this all into a murder mystery (the murder of the dog in the title of the book) and the back story of his parents. The irony is the contrast we find between Christopher and his mom and dad. Christopher’s mind only works with logic. He can’t read emotions on faces or understand analogies–which to him are actually lies. He only has a rudimentary apprehension of the most basic emotions like being happy, sad or afraid. So he often appears emotionless to others.

His parents on the other hand are both consumed by their emotions, often in connection with their imperfect attempts to love and care for (and not be completely frustrated by) Christopher. Affairs, abandonment, anger–all rage in their lives. In their own way, they are disabled too.

As someone committed to logic, Christopher unsurprisingly doesn’t believe in God. This comes up several times in this first-person narrative. For Christopher who could barely grasp beauty or experience love, it is not surprising that his world would be barren of God.

I rarely read books twice nor do I want to. This was one I happily read a second time recently. Very worthwhile.

Author: Andy Le Peau

I've been an editor and writer for over forty years. I am passionate about ideas and how we can express them clearly, beautifully, and persuasively. I love reading good books, talking about them, and recommending them. I thoroughly enjoy my family who help me continue on the path of a lifelong learner.