If you’ve read this book by Mark Haddon you’ll know right away why Christopher Boone appears on my list of favourites for he’s as unusual as they come. He is the protagonist of The Curious Incident of The Dog in the Night-Time, a book I recommend highly if you haven’t read it already. Read it if for no other reason than the fact that it talks a refreshingly different language.
15-year-old Christopher is in many ways an exceptional boy. He has a photographic memory and he remembers every prime number unto 7507. He’s a Math champion. He also has an extraordinarily logical brain which makes him a science champion too.
However when it comes to humans and the way they function he is just no good. He has a rudimentary understanding of human emotions other than ‘happy’ and ‘sad’. He doesn’t understand sarcasm, or implied meanings or metaphors.
He is labelled a boy with ‘special needs’. But that is a misnomer as he points out, “everyone has special needs. Like Father who has to carry a little packet of artificial sweetening tablets around with him to put in his coffee to stop him getting fat, or Mrs Peters who wears a beige-coloured hearing aid,….” . Irrefutable logic there. What say Mr Spock?
He dreams of being an astronaut even though he knows that’s not possible. But says he, “You could still want something that is very unlikely to happen.” He certainly knows how to dream! His other favourite dream is a world with only people who ‘don’t look at other people’s faces’. Staring makes him uncomfortable as does touching and hugging and loud noises or people talking too much too fast since he takes time to process information. Too many new experiences together – like going to a new place with many people -make him want to press ctrl+alt+del, he says.
Then one day his neighbour’s poodle is killed and Christopher takes it upon himself to play detective and find the killer. He wants to write a murder mystery novel once he’s solved the case. This is the beginning of a strange and eventful journey.
With all his peculiarities, what I love most about Christopher is his clear mindedness and his wonderfully accurate self-analysis. He knows how he’s different from other people as well as what he’s supposed to do or not do, though he doesn’t quite understand why. He even makes out a list of his behavioural problems.
He offers an endearingly refreshing perspective of life. His descriptions of people and situations turn out perfectly accurate yet they are not anything I have read before or thought of either. Sample this..”People say that you always have to tell the truth. But they do not mean this because you are not allowed to tell old people that they are old and you are not allowed to tell people if they smell funny or if a grown up had made a fart…”
“..most people are lazy. They never look at everything. They do what is called glancing which is the same word for bumping off something and carrying on in almost the same direction.” He finds it weird that people can see a field full of cows and not know exactly how many there were or not notice (and remember) the exact pattern on each of them! He would remember each one of them.
Despite his ‘disability’ he is an independent boy and can pretty much look out for himself and we watch him grow as the book progresses. The charm of the book (and the character) lies in that it is narrated in first person by Christopher himself. If you have ever wondered what goes on in the mind of a special needs person, what makes him function the way he does, this is your chance to do just that.
Finally, it’s a lady next Tuesday, a powerful and talented one at that. Take a guess if you can.
Linking up to ABC Wednesday , the fun alphabetical weekly challenge.