In 2003 it seemed unlikely that a book about a father with an autistic son would become a literary sensation, but this is exactly what happened. Mark Haddon’s novel The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time hit the right spot at the right time. This is a tale which lifted the lid on autism and gave a literary face to this amazingly complex subject.
Taking the form of a mystery novel, this contemporary, off-piste re-imagining of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes detective stories, provides its readers with a masterful insight into the strange and fascinating world of high-functioning autism. Narrated through a first-person perspective, the book delineates how Christopher John Francis Boone, a 15-year-old mathematician “with some behavioural difficulties" living in Wiltshire, UK, slowly unravels the truth surrounding the apparent death of his mother, Judy, by embarking on a forensic investigation into the precise circumstances surrounding the death of Wellington, his next-door-neighbour's pet dog.
Haddon’s gift is to put a human face on autism, to reclaim it from psychiatric exactitude and the bullying constraints of neurotypicism. Interest in autism may have peaked, but this extraordinary condition remains, along with psychedelic consciousness, pivotal in any reasonable account and understanding of human creativity and, indeed, civilisation.
Christopher John Francis Boone is a hero, but not in any conventional sense. His struggle to make sense of reality is, ultimately, a struggle we all must make. Each and every one of us is given no masterplan; instead we must simply juggle endlessly with clues, with a world whose apparent randomness brings both pain and pleasure. Ultimately, a dead dog tells it all!