Saturday, 2 December 2017

Book Review: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

For the majority of people that live in the modern world, it must be almost impossible to fathom how a mind cannot cope with the emotional side of life. Unfortunately for Christopher, he lives in an emotionally dissociative state for literally every moment of his life. Throughout the novel, his official diagnosis is never confirmed, although it is mentioned that he attends a ‘special school’ and is exceptionally gifted at Maths. Various reviews confirm that he is on the Autistic Spectrum, which is highly likely, but as I said previously, never confirmed in the novel so this assessment is purely speculative, based on the way that Christopher presents himself as the sole narrator. The novel is an interesting read because of Christopher’s individual outlook on life, although in all honesty the beauty of the writing is that as a reader, you feel like you are seeing the way Christopher lives his life, not simply reading it. Somehow, this book manages to open your eyes to the struggles that some people live with every single day but in a positive light; as much as Christopher is unconventional, he is content.

As the novel progresses, Christopher explains that he has been challenged by a teacher to write a novel of his own and naturally, that is how the novel that we read is written; about Christopher, by Christopher. He has an insanely logical mind, using techniques such as working out the highest prime number in his head as a way to relax. Christopher seems to understand animals much easier than he understands people, for example he is very fond of Toby, his pet rat and he was bereft when his neighbours’ dog, Wellington was murdered. Christopher takes life very literally, only seeing black and white, whereas most people are able to see grey and other shades dependant on the situation. It wasn’t surprising that he decided to play detective and find out who the murderer was, particularly as he was the one to discover the dead dog, as that is his version of a coping mechanism.

For someone of fifteen years old, Christopher does struggle quite clearly understanding the emotions and behaviours of other people and he particularly detests being touched to the point that he and his father have their own means of showing affection by touching only by the tips of their fingers. Although he does explain his unusual yet systematic ways of attempting to learn the feelings of others, showing that in some ways he is wise for his age and in other ways he’s still very young. Either way, he definitely needs as much support as he can get to find happiness, particularly as he is so determined to discover who murdered the neighbours dog. I loved the intimate details that he shared with the reader, such as his and Father’s relationship, how Siobhan (a teacher) encourages him to be more independent and the little bit and bobs that make up his everyday life. His determination to gain an A grade Maths A-Level is nice, plus his Father’s insistence to the School that he should be able to get the same opportunities as children at regular schools shows just how much his father cares for him, however difficult it must be to raise a child like Christopher, who faces so many challenges every single day.

Overall, I did enjoy this book but I can see why it is studied and scrutinised so often; it contains mature and frequently emotionally difficult content but the author does portray Christopher in a sympathetic light whilst making it clear that he is in control of his own mind. At times, the layout of the novel was a bit confusing, but that’s also because it is a demonstration of a unique mind, for example I loved that all of the chapters were prime numbers purely because Christopher likes prime numbers, or the diagrams of mathematical puzzles. The little details were what made this novel so interesting for me, although I also liked that it wasn’t all happy. The novel did tackle some difficult topics and due to Christopher’s personality, they were portrayed with intensity, for example death, infidelity and the justice system. However, I disagree with the notion that this is a mystery novel as I found it easy to guess all of the mysteries long before the truth was revealed, but that wasn’t a disappointment for me; this is a relatively short but unusual novel and I would recommend it as a read, but be open minded throughout, otherwise you won’t enjoy it. You have to be ready to become completely invested in the complicated but satisfying life that Christopher leads and follow his journey to happiness through finding himself due to his own bravery.

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