Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Review: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon

Title: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time
Author: Mark Haddon
Publisher: Random House
Publish Date: July 31, 2003
Genre: YA, realistic fiction
Pages: 226

*Read for book club.

Christopher John Francis Boone knows all the countries of the world and their capitals and every prime number up to 7,057. He relates well to animals but has no understanding of human emotions. He cannot stand to be touched. Although gifted with a superbly logical brain, Christopher is autistic. Everyday interactions and admonishments have little meaning for him. Routine, order and predictability shelter him from the messy, wider world. Then, at fifteen, Christopher’s carefully constructed world falls apart when he finds his neighbour’s dog, Wellington, impaled on a garden fork, and he is initially blamed for the killing.

Christopher decides that he will track down the real killer and turns to his favorite fictional character, the impeccably logical Sherlock Holmes, for inspiration. But the investigation leads him down some unexpected paths and ultimately brings him face to face with the dissolution of his parents’ marriage. As he tries to deal with the crisis within his own family, we are drawn into the workings of Christopher’s mind.

And herein lies the key to the brilliance of Mark Haddon’s choice of narrator: The most wrenching of emotional moments are chronicled by a boy who cannot fathom emotion. The effect is dazzling, making for a novel that is deeply funny, poignant, and fascinating in its portrayal of a person whose curse and blessing is a mind that perceives the world literally.

I got this book a while ago from my parents. I think I was in high school, because that would have been just after it came out. Although it sounded interesting, I was never interested enough to give it a go. This summer, it was chosen as one of the books that my friends and I were to read for our summer book club. I’m glad I finally took the time to read it!

I’ve heard this book is valuable to people who want to be teachers, and I understand why. It gives us a look into the mind of an autistic child. These students are often the ones who cause teachers a lot of grief and stress because they can be high-maintenance, but they are typically very bright children who just don’t understand social cues and therefore are misunderstood in society. The author of THE CURIOUS INCIDENT worked with autistic children, and his knowledge and understanding of them enabled him to write a magnificent novel.

It was interesting to read at first. I had to get used to Christopher as a narrator because he thinks so differently from me (and, I’m assuming, from the general population). I was also surprised with the amount of swearing in this book, and it made me glad that I didn’t read it when I was younger. But eventually, the plot starting catching me off-guard and about half-way through, I just got sucked right in. I really didn’t expect it to! But the next thing I knew, I’d spent my whole night reading the second half of the book. I had a hard time putting it down.

This book is so much more than the mystery of who killed Wellington, the dog. It’s more about the relationship between Christopher and his father, and how Christopher deals with the things life throws at him. One characteristic of children with autism, is that they aren’t very good with change. Unfortunately, Christopher has a lot of change to deal with, and he struggles a lot, but comes out as a stronger, more confident person.

I’m sorry, I feel like this review is just all over the place! This book is a great exhibition of the mind of a child with autism, and I think that it is beneficial to teachers to read this, especially if they have or ever will work with children who have autism. I think that a lot of people would benefit from reading this. It’s powerful to read and learn about how Christopher is, and then see what he can live through regardless of his disability. Thanks to Christopher, I’m willing to take whatever life throws at me, and be stronger because of it.

buy the book from The Book Depository, free delivery


  1. I have never heard of this and it sounds like something that is really good. I might pick it up one day. Great review :)

  2. I read this book pre-blogging but I really enjoyed it as well! Christopher was such an interesting main character! Great review!