The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
31 January 2004


This novel recently won the Whitbread Prize, and it thoroughly deserves the honour. It is sensitively written, with extremely real characters and excellently rendered descriptions. These are even more impressive for the limitation placed on Haddon by his 15-year-old narrator's mental illness. Christopher has Asperger's Syndrome and notices everything. 10 years later he will be able to reproduce an exact list of all the features of, for example, a room in a railway station. This creates difficulties in description - as he writes his book he is more likely to leave out the endless detail- which Haddon manages well, including sufficient detail to give the reader an impression of Christopher's mental capacity without confusing them.

The same care characterises all other aspects of the novel. Haddon has done a superb job of getting inside his narrator's mind, and it leaves the reader with a real understanding of the way his mind works as a result of his illness. The prose is deeply engrossing - I became more absorbed in this novel than I have in any novel since I was about 10. At the same time it is heavy going, perhaps because of the intense concentration which is allowed by its clarity and simplicity. Unless you're used to such activity, don't read it all in one sitting (although it's tempting). You won't realise how tired you are until you finish.

Christopher is a person whom anyone could encounter at any time, and it is enlightening to have this insight into such a person's mind and character. He also deals with problems that any child could find in their lives and he does so admirably well. The book excites sympathy for Christopher and for both of his parents. It should be seen, not as a novel, but as a gift to the world. I recommend it. I really do.


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