I came across this book entirely by accident. Back in 2003 I was browsing in my local bookstore and I came across Curious Incident…. The reason why I picked it up was mainly because I loved the opening paragraph and it was original, at least to me at the time.
The very minute I sat down and started reading I was hooked. Nowadays it’s very rare for me just to stay put in a chair for a few hours but it happened and I felt very satisfied when I finished the book. In fact I took it to work and lent it one of my colleagues, who in turn lent it to his friend and after two months my copy returned to me in a rather battered condition.
To sum up the plot, Christopher Boone discovers that his dog has been killed and he decides to investigate this murder. The thing is that Boone is has Asperger’s syndrome and so his worldview and way of reasoning is different to his peers. As his search continues Christopher starts to discover secrets about his family and in the process comes of age.
The main reason why this book manages to strike a chord with so many people (obviously i’ve had people say that they found the novel dull and slow paced – you can’t please everyone!) is that Haddon does manage to portray Christopher realistically. His hate for certain colours, his savant way of reasoning, his insistence of prime numbers. As I work with autistic children and teach them reading skills, I encounter quirks such as these on a near daily basis. Haddon is not exaggerating and yet tackles these topics in a non condescending way. Neither does he romanticise Christopher’s condition.
The other factor is the readability. As my friends told me, Christopher’s insistence on solving this mystery keeps you turning the pages anxiously and the drawings and pictures help keep the flow and fun of the novel intact . Haddon”s way of mashing genres is also deft, especially in the second half of the novel when things get darker and that adds to the cleverness of The Curious Incident…
Funnily enough when I finished reading the book I had a feeling that there would be a whole glut of novels featuring autistic children but the only one I cam across was Howard Buten’s ‘When I was Five I Killed Myself’ and that was published a good thirty years before Haddon’s book. I guess that this is a novel that cannot be imitated in any other way.
and yes it is one book you should read before you die!