Curiosity killed the
Christopher Boone is a fifteen year old with Asperger’s Syndrome. He’s a detective too, investigating a murder mystery after finding his neighbour’s dog, Wellington, with a fork stabbed through his abdomen. But that’s not the only curiosity in this novel, because as Christopher investigates the case he also uncovers some shocking secrets that result in him running away from home and taking an adventurous trip to London. The resulting story is funny and sad, but ultimately heart-warming.
The book is written as though Christopher’s writing his own crime thriller novel, and his intriguing narrative hooks you in straightaway. He’s blunt and straight to the point, disconnected from his own emotions, and prefers to rely on logic to explain confusing occurrences. Mark Haddon has captured the characteristics of someone with Asperger’s Syndrome perfectly. Christopher is abnormally wary around strangers, groans when he’s anxious or angry, and signals his trust and affection for those close to him by simply touching their hand. The character is incredibly believable, and whilst there were moments when I felt sorry for him, the book never feels patronising towards Christopher’s character, or indeed others who have Asperger’s. If anything, this novel gives a voice to those with Asperger’s and allows the reader to see beyond an unfavourable label that’s been created by society.
Throughout, the book is dotted with pictures, puzzles and maths questions, and the chapters are numbered with prime numbers, further demonstrating Christopher’s passion for maths and logic. The uniqueness of this novel is additionally enhanced by the interesting addition of footnotes which allow for Christopher to elaborate on certain points; they also provide the reader with a deeper insight into Christopher’s life, and the way in which his mind works. When telling the reader of his list of behavioural problems, he follows “A. Not talking to people for a long time.” with the footnote: “Once I didn’t talk to anyone for 5 weeks.” Accompanied by the random formatting of the book, which includes various lists and phrases in bold, the quirky embellishments to The Curious Incident come together and produce an inventive and intelligent reading experience.
I really enjoyed this book! I found it so easy to read and could easily have finished it in a couple of sittings. Whilst the language itself isn’t complex, reading about Christopher’s life, and the situations he gets himself into, is harder to digest. Some of the things he’s been through are incredibly sad, and made all the harder to read because he himself doesn’t fully understand them. What’s more, the novel opened my eyes to things I would not have previously considered. If I were to see someone sat in a train station groaning, with their hands over their ears, I’d probably steer clear of them. But reading this book made me realise that there could be more to a situation, and indeed a person, than first meets the eye.
I experienced a range of emotions when reading this novel, from sadness to happiness, and even anger. I laughed when I felt like I shouldn’t, and I think that shows just how strong Haddon’s writing is. That he can make such a serious subject matter humorous, opening the reader’s eyes to a psychological disorder in an amusing, and most importantly, inoffensive way, highlights just how brilliant The Curious Incident is. At the same time though, Christopher’s characterisation is not dominated by his Asperger’s, and there were times when I could relate to him myself – feeling uncomfortable in new situations, frustration when things don’t go the way we want them to, and social exclusion are things that we have all probably experienced. I have no doubt in my mind that this book deserved to be part of Vintage Books’ 21st Anniversary collection; it’s a fantastically touching story, and one that everyone should read.
Have you read The Curious Incident, or seen the theatre production? Let us know in the comments below!