The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time was written by Mark Haddon and published in 2003 by Random House. It has won and been shortlisted for several awards and was turned into a play for the stage in 2012.
The book follows Christopher, a teenager with an unnamed disability, who discovers a dead dog in the neighbourhood and then sets out to solve the mystery of who did it. Although unnamed, the reader can assume that Christopher suffers autism or similar as he struggles with people, misunderstanding things that are not literal, and misreading people. Christopher eventually solves the mystery but along the way uncovers other terrible truths that affect his life.
“I didn’t like him touching me like this. And this is when I hit him.”
The chapters are numbered in prime numbers and the book is written as though it is Christopher’s own creation. This is a strength because it pulls the reader into believing and being a part of the setting. In addition, there are no introductions about who the characters are, the reader is left to put the pieces together themselves. Haddon has used short sentences, bold writing and minor illustrations of faces to accentuate the style as if the author is an autistic teenager. The effect of this style is an authentic storytelling that is captivating and powerfully illustrates the struggles of those who are considered to be different.
Haddon effectively shows how some minds think differently to others. I particularly liked how he described the way that Christopher would start to become anxious and then lose himself, or explain how Christopher would make parallels to the real world he was in and other theories or experiences he had encountered. The chapters were short which were effective in moving the story along.
I found reading this book to be very insightful into understanding the minds of those with different thoughts, and useful to study how this is shown and described to the reader. For example, when Christopher is sick, he says he is sick but then Haddon uses the opportunity to describe the way he vomits to give depth to a simple statement. I think this approach will work when describing anxiety in my own work.
Haddon, M. (2003) The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. London: Penguin Random House (272 pages).