Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Currently Reading: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

image by Alejandro esCamilla via unsplash

I read a lot of books. Seriously, a lot. The school librarian allows me to take out as many as I can carry each week (teacher perks!). Kids give me funny looks when they see the weekend pile on my desk.

Now before you think I'm bragging, very few of the books I read are brainy books. Their authors probably didn't win any Nobel prizes. I've studied literature. Literature is okay. What I love is a rattling good story. One that I am eager to pick up and unwilling to put down.

But one of the things I realised, looking back on 2014, is that I can't actually remember all the books I've read. Some made a big impact, but I can't quite remember the name. Others had catchy titles but were boring on the inside. And I'd quite like to be able to look back and see some of them. Maybe even reread one or two.

So, here on Daydreaming, I am going to try keep an (incomplete) record of some of what I read, love and hate.

The first one is a bit of a cheat, because I actually read it for work (as you can see by all the sticky notes below: can anyone say #bookselfie?). However...

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon is one of those books which you read really quickly and then get stuck thinking about for the next few months. I read it first a few years ago, loved it, and recently revisited it when we decided to do it as a setwork with our grade 9s this year. It made a big splash when it first came out, and won lots of awards and things.

In the novel Mark Haddon has lovingly portrayed Christopher John Francis Boone, a 15 year old boy with a difference. Well, lots of differences really, some of which (like not eating anything brown or yellow, or really really not liking anyone to touch him) make it quite difficult for him to manage in ordinary society. But he likes animals - probably since their emotions are much easier to understand - which leads him onto his great Odyssey: solving the murder of Wellington the dog.

As numerous people have said, all over the internet, this is not a book about disability, but about difference. This is not just good publicity. It's true. Christopher's adventures might seem trivial when I just tell you about them (in one episode he succeeds, with enormous difficulty, in buying a train ticket), but from his point of view they are nothing short of heroic. I identify with that. Some mornings, it seems heroic to get out of bed. And if you have an aversion to people touching you, why shouldn't conquering the tube station be utterly valiant?

However, The Curious Incident isn't just a serious book. Although it is deeply sad at times (investigating Wellington's death leads Christopher to make all sorts of tragic discoveries), it is also profoundly funny. And not in the "one liner" way that makes you laugh and then forget about it. It is funny in a way which makes you laugh at yourself, at the weird things that we do so often that we forget they're weird. Christopher is one of the best "innocent" narrators I've ever read. He reports incidents with a deadpan, often uncomprehending exactitude, revealing absurdity after absurdity in modern life, some of which we are forced to recognize in spite of the fact that he doesn't understand them at all.

Also, I think Ed Boone is one of the most outstandingly realistic good fathers portrayed in fiction ever.

By the way, Christopher is happens to be extremely intelligent, in the mathsy-sciencey sense. How can a Maths teacher not love a novel with a mathematical proof in the appendix?

Okay, so I enjoyed this book. Perhaps too sad to get onto my "read every year" shelf, but one of those novels which you come out of... slightly different than you were before.

yours literately.

1 comment:

  1. Your excellent review has convinced me to take this book off my "to read" list and give it a whirl. I'm surprised that you made no link to Sherlock Holmes in your review, though?