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Book: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

September 1, 2011

This is one of those books that nearly everyone except me has read. Long on my list, I’ve started it many times but just couldn’t get into it. Finally I saw it as an audiobook at the library and thought I would give it one last go.

Thankfully, this book is easier to listen to than it is to read. I can definitely see why I had a hard time reading it — the language is so blunt and straightforward, and, due to the narrator’s autism disorder, full of so many repetitive details that my attention kept wandering. However, via audiobook, the words take on a rhythm that I found engaging, and I was finally able to enjoy the book.

Christopher Boone is a teenager living with his father in a small suburb in England. He has Asperger’s Syndrome and displays many developmental and behavioral issues, of which I was actually rather glad to get an inside perspective. Having an over-developed sense of empathy and *always, always* keeping in mind what other people are thinking or feeling, it was very interesting to get a glimpse into what it would be like to have nearly no empathy for other people — in fact, to wish to be completely detached from others. At one point, Christopher describes his favorite dream, in which almost all the people of the world have died or disappeared, and he is left gloriously alone, with no one trying to look at him or touch him, and he doesn’t have to worry about what other people’s faces are doing, and he can just do what he likes without being bothered by other people at all. The way this is described, I can totally understand why this would be his favorite dream.

This starts out as a murder mystery, about what happened to the neighbor’s dog, but then it becomes more about Christopher, and what happens when certain things he’s counted on as stable and real get upended. He goes out on an adventure, a very scary one, and is very brave. People whom he trusts prove to be rather untrustworthy (in his eyes) and he has to stretch a little to get back on what he feels is safe territory. This ordeal is hard to listen to, because the author has done a very good job of writing about what it would be like to be this sort of person, with very little context for the mysteries and experiences of the fast-paced world; a person for whom being touched by someone induces a screaming fit, a person for whom new experiences are sensory overloads. It would be very scary and overwhelming.

Some reviews I’ve read talk about how people found Christopher’s lack of empathy to be disturbing, and found him unlikeable. I disagree — I actually liked him quite a bit and his worldview made sense to me. If you can’t stand being touched, and it’s not really your fault that your brain works in a different way than most people’s, then I felt like he got on fairly well in the world and was figuring things out so that he could function. Of course, the way he is is very difficult for other people, who like to be hugged and like new experiences, but that’s not his concern.

This won’t rank up there in my Favorite Books Ever list, but I did enjoy it and I feel like I have a better understanding of why people who have an autistic disorder may act in ways which are hard for non-autistic people to understand. And I can finally knock it off my list.

(RIP list coming this weekend!)

5 Comments leave one →
  1. September 1, 2011 7:54 pm

    I to enjoyed this book. The not being touched is something that I found wonderfuly discribed. Working in health care I am touched and touching all of the time. When I get home I want space.

  2. September 1, 2011 9:49 pm

    i read this one and my thoughts are very similar to yours. definitely not an all time fave, but i enjoyed reading it. it was a very unique read.

    • September 2, 2011 7:57 am

      Yes, exactly. It was good and I enjoyed it, but it won’t be on any of my “favorites” lists…

  3. September 2, 2011 7:26 am

    I’m one of the now even fewer who haven’t read this one yet even though it always sounds so good. Looking forward to your RIP list!

    • September 2, 2011 7:57 am

      It’s a very fast book — you could read it on a lazy day. It’s worth checking out.

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