The Curious Incident of the dog in the night-time
by Mark Haddon
Last Friday was the first I had heard of World Book Evening. A colleague did a round robin e-mail advising the whole building that he has 40 copies of the above book to give away as part of the World Book Evening.
I was attracted to The Curious Incident by its subject matter. It's billed as as a detective story but written from the perspective of Christopher John Francis Boone who is aged 15 and most crucially he suffers from Aspergers Syndrome (AS). Now Aspergers is one particular colour on the Autistic Spectrum and over the last few years I have had lots of exposure to ASD (Autistic Spectrum Disorders) and AS in particular, so I grabbed the opportunity to pick up a copy.
On returning to my team, a colleague volunteered that he had read it, or a least half of it and at the start found it really funny but then it stopped being funny so he gave up.
I read the book through in 24 hours and found it totally compelling. The storyline is told in Christopher's voice as he writes his own book about his investigation to find the killer of a neighbours dog. The strange aspect of this story is the insight it offers onto life with Aspergers, the literalism, the need for structure and the seemingly irrational aversions - in Christopher's case the colours yellow and brown which rules out bananas which start yellow and then turn brown.
The thing about ASD is that, as its name suggests, it is a spectrum and what is true of one is not necessarily the same in another. But then there are overriding similarities which you can see time and time again - the words may change but the song remains the same. In this case Christopher is a near genius at Maths and things Scientific but is utterly incapable of reading faces or the host of non verbal communications we use all day every day. This makes life very difficult for him.
For me the interesting thing is the perspective. It's life through the eyes of the sufferer whereas my exposure has been from the carers point of view. Looking after young people with ASD is no walk in the park and the book dramatically illustrates the damage it can inflict on parents. When you are faced with an unremitting struggle and you cant argue with the child so you end up in conflict with your partner.The wisest advice I have been given is "love and cherish your wife and when you are all done with that cherish her some more". Easier said than done but sound words.
If you have anyone with AS or ASD in your family or circle of friends, get your hands on this book and you will get an insight into a different and very frightening world, one which we share but barely comprehend.
As for the World Book Evening, the deal is that the books are read and passed on for others to share. So I need someone to take this book and read it, before passing it on once again and logging it onto the World Book Evening's website. So if this is of interest let me know and I will post it to you - not to own but to read and pass on.