I am a member of many autism groups on Facebook. One day, I asked if anyone knew of any great fictional portrayals of autistics as inspiration for future installments of my “Fictional Spectrum” series. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon was mentioned several times, so I decided to try it out.
The story begins when the book’s narrator, Christopher John Francis Boone, discovers a dead poodle in his neighbor’s yard. He is 15 years old, and lives with his father, Ed, in Swindon, along with a pet rat named Toby.
Christopher is never stated as having autism in the book. In fact, Haddon himself has stated that he did not intend for Christopher to be perceived as autistic. Nevertheless, he does possess many autistic traits. He is exceptionally intelligent, especially in math. He does not like being touched. He is obsessed with both Sherlock Holmes and prime numbers. (In fact, the book’s chapters are numbered in prime numbers, starting with 2, 3, 5, 7, 11, and so on. It is Christopher’s obsession with Sherlock Holmes that drives him to solve the mystery of who killed the dog.
Ed, his father, is not very kind to Christopher. He tries well, but does not seem to understand Christopher’s personality. He tends to get angry with Christopher easily.
For the most part, I identified with Christopher. I was quite the chatterbox as a kid, and was dubbed a “walking encyclopedia” because of my ability to absorb what I’d read. This is a trait I’ve never fully outgrown. I found this part enjoyable, even though Christopher tended to veer off on irrelevant topics.
I did have some problems with the book, I did have some issues. My biggest problem is that Christopher is a savant when it comes to math. Not every autistic is a savant, and I believe that a positive stereotype can be just as damaging as a negative one. A person might see a positive stereotype and wonder why he or she does not “measure up” to its image. I would love to see a book or TV show with an autistic character who does not happen to be a savant or a math genius.
Would I recommend this book? Actually, yes. I feel that the book was well-written and portrayed an autistic character well, intended or not. It was good at keeping suspense, which is great for mystery stories. If you like mysteries, I say check it out.