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The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
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781 of 818 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
Mark Haddon has written a moving novel about love and bravery through the eyes of a British autistic boy. Christopher discovers his neighbor's poodle dead, impaled by a pitchfork, and, because he adores puzzles, he sets out to solve the mystery of who killed Wellington . But Christopher is autistic, a boy who doesn't like to be touched and cannot decipher emotions beyond the tools his teacher has taught him, and so the task requires the huge effort of testing rules and facing his own fears. A literalist by neurology, he deconstructs life into a set of mathematical equations and physical laws. This unique perspective makes him a good detective on one level, where clues and logic rule, but it also fails him on another, higher one because he cannot understand the magnitude of what he uncovers.
That Haddon was able to write a book from Christopher's point of view with all his quirks and still make him lovable is extraordinary. By necessity, the writing is simple and unadorned, but the language of details elevates it from the mundane. The insertion of mathematical puzzles and drawings add to the reader's understanding of how Christopher's mind works. Haddon's real skill is an understatement that allows the reader to comprehend what is going on even if Christopher cannot. Although Christopher cannot grasp subtlety and nuances, the reader can, and that's where the true force of this exceptional novel lies.
This short, easy to read book can be completed in a couple of sittings, although its impact will last much longer. Highly recommended for a general readership.
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980 of 1,030 people found the following review helpful
on June 12, 2008
Format: Paperback
I doubt my review will be worth anything, what with there being 1,400-plus reviews already. But I thought I should tell of my opinion seeing as I am mildly autistic myself, & have interacted with other autistic beings from all across the spectrum.

I'm sure you already know what this book is focused on: a 15-year-old boy named Christopher, plagued by a case of autism more severe than my own, & he plays the literal-minded narrator. Indeed the author pulls very hard to make Christopher sound like an authentic autistic person, & I can't say he failed. This story is more about him than the murdered dog, his family's turmoil, anything.
& yet I had a very hard time liking Christopher. His character never shines a single moment of empathy for others. Very bluntly he tells his audience of the people surrounding him, but his voice holds such devoid distance as if these people are hollow shells not quite alive. At one point in the story, a torn person pleas for Christopher to hold their hand... just this once, & Christopher refuses apathically.
I strongly dislike being touched, however I will suck it up & allow myself to be touched or even reach out to hug someone if I feel they truly need it.
As much as I know that these are the lines that separate the mild from the severe cases, it still remains hard for me to feel for Christopher knowing that he cannot feel for others beyond himself. (On another note, some people with autism are known to feel physical pain with skin to skin contact. Christopher never mentions such a thing, so it seems clear that he `feels' like me when it comes to touching.)

Despite this stoic nature, the story unfolds in such a way that others' emotions bleed through the pages via bits of dialog & in their simple actions. The situation is a tender one & very raw at its root.
At the same time I found the other characters unlikable as well. While it becomes lucid later, Christ's father seems to cage his son, banning his curiosity. In a turning point of the mystery behind Wellington the poodle's murder, something harsh is revealed about the father that places him in a very ugly light.

- - spoiler - -
As for Christopher's estranged mother, let me spell for you a summary of her explanation letters: `I'm so sorry I had to leave you Christopher, but you must understand that you are an unbearable child. I hated my life & it was all your fault.' Not to mention the fact that she flatly abandoned him in the first place.

But all this ugliness makes for a very raw & potent read. Each of these characters in their flaws feels very real.
& the simplistic, blunt writing style itself feels very fresh & novel.

I just wish people would stop saying `this book is an insight into the autistic mind.'
This book is an insight into ONE autistic mind. We are each very different people. Just from this review you should be able to understand that.
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206 of 218 people found the following review helpful
on September 26, 2003
Format: Hardcover
What I loved about this book is the graceful way Haddon uses the literal mind of Christopher to develop our understanding of his life. No neurotypical person may ever fully grasp the working of the autistic mind. We must rely on them to tell us, and as we see with Christopher, the viewpoint is told in language quite different from the words we neurotypicals usually use for description. Many books written by parents or teachers of autistic people tell what they see in their neurotypical words. Christopher tells us from his words and his descriptions. Very clever. Does Haddon get all the details precisely right? Perhaps people with autism in a book group discussion might be able to tell us that.
I must respectfully disagree with the parent of a child with Asperger Syndrome whose rating of this book gave it only a "1."
I, too, have a child with Asperger Syndrome, and I found Haddon's novel to be an entertaining read, a fine story, and a rare peek inside the workings of my son's mind. Certainly Christopher isn't my child -- just as every literary hero or heroine is not an exact replica of a true life man or woman. I found surprising insight in how Christopher tells his story ... and it is insight into my own son and the other people I know who have autism. Christopher's eating preferences, literal thinking, sensory difficulties, and math facts as a calming technique seem quite accurate.
As to the comment about savant capabilities. People with Asperger Syndrome must have a perseverating interest; it is part of the psychiatric diagnosis. In creating a character whose interest is math, Haddon hasn't done "rainman" sterotyping, nor is he creating a circus freak to entertain us. He's shown us into one character's world. This world fascinates those of us who are not quite so gifted. How many of us say, "I hate math," or "I don't do math?" Christopher, whose experience in the Tube station reads like a bad dream, effortlessly performs difficult "maths." His world is just opposite that of mine.
Christopher's "maths" also represent hope. Math is what is good and constant and dependable to him. And, it is marketable! Dr. Temple Grandin, (a famous woman with autism) speaks about this at conferences. When an autistic person has a special interest, we are to nurture it ... it may be their career one day.
As to the relationship of the parents. Anyone with a disabled or ill child will tell you that it takes a toll on your marriage. To ignor that is to hide your head in the sand. Do they all end chaotically? Certainly not. But, is that good drama? Would that draw us into a book? The parent's broken relationship and the raging affect to which Christopher is oblivious illustrate beautifully how little the autistic mind picks up on what neurotypicals take for granted. But, by doing his methodical detective work, Christopher nearly independently walks through the minefield his Mom and Dad have created. How very, very clever he is!
I have a new insight into the fascinating way that my son's mind might work. This novel fits well into both my literature and my autism resource bookshelves. A must read for everyone, but especially for people who live and work with people who have autism.
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82 of 90 people found the following review helpful
on May 17, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Christopher is a fifteen-year-old, mildly autistic boy who lives with his father in Swindon, a small town about a hundred miles outside London. His mother has passed away several years ago of cancer, so it's just Christopher and his father. During the days, Christopher attends a "special needs" school, where lessons include not only the three R's, but also tips on dealing with strangers and decoding facial expressions (Christopher can recognize happy and sad faces, but more complicated faces give him trouble). For a project, Christopher's teacher tells him to write a book about himself. Adding his own individual touches along the way (a math prodigy, the boy numbers his chapters not 1, 2, 3, but as prime numbers in ascending order), and peppering the text with illustrative tables and drawings, Christopher embarks on a detective story about Mrs. Shears's dog, stabbed to death in her yard with a garden fork.
Christopher's purpose in writing his book is to emulate his hero, Sherlock Holmes (whose logical mind he greatly admires), and solve the case. But his investigations unearth more about the relationships between his family and his neighbors than about the identity of the dog's killer. Unable to decode sarcasm, jokes, or figures of speech (he calls them all "lies," since they aren't the truth), Christopher faithfully notes down his conversations and observations; though the reader, able to read between the lines, will guess the truth fairly quickly, Christopher's inability to understand social cues makes his struggle for answers all the more affecting.
Constantly bewildered by the (to him) incomprehensible behavior of those around him, Christopher resembles nothing so much as a human plunked down on a distant planet, trying desperately to figure out how to interpret the language and behavior of an alien species. And, in a way, many of Christopher's conclusions and actions make logical sense; but because he lacks a normal person's ability to make intuitive connections or understand the unspoken, Christopher has to rely on the imperfect set of rules he's learned about human behavior. Which is not to say Christopher can't also be infuriating, with his startling rigidity and resistance to change; he's prone to loss of bladder control and groaning fits when confused or scared by his surroundings - which is rather often. Nevertheless, he's deeply sympathetic and intensely believable, even if (like me) you've never met an autistic person before.
Other characters, such as Christopher's father and bereaved dog-owner Mrs. Shears, are realistically flawed and very convincing. They're not saints, by any means; Christopher's father tries hard to be patient, but can't control his frustration and anger, and all too often takes it out on his unresisting son. Mrs. Shears, for her part, is icily distant to Christopher. At first we assume that it's because of his insensitive poking into the death of her pet, but as the story progresses, we learn that her hostility stems from other, understandable (though not very noble) reasons. Obviously, Christopher's not responsible for his condition, and obviously he wouldn't have chosen to be as he is; but even though he can't help it, the boy is a heavy burden to those who must care for him, and frequent flare-ups of resentment and bitterness keep the story well away from saccharine TV-movie territory.
Haddon is a subtle and sensitive writer, leaving it to us to draw the conclusions that Christopher can't. His precise and careful prose reveal just enough to keep us a step ahead of Christopher - and give us an ominous sense of dark revelations waiting in the wings - while retaining a suspenseful mood throughout the narrative. In the end, though, the only mystery here is one that's beyond Christopher's, or anyone's, power to solve: how people can be so brutal, violent, and cruel to each other in the name of love. Along with this great novel, I'd like to recommend another Amazon quick-pick curiosity -------------------------> The Losers Club by Richard Perez
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92 of 103 people found the following review helpful
on April 30, 2004
Format: Hardcover
This book will knock your socks off! I guarentee you've never read anything like this before. Christopher gives Rain Man a run for his money!
Mark Haddon has done a superb job of creating the character of Autistic Christopher. What's more, as you start reading, he's not a character any longer, he's real...In this book Christopher has found his neighbor's dog murdered, so he decides to play detective, like his idol Sherlock Holmes, and find out who killed him. So begins the journey, which actually leads into ta much larger adventure, as Christopher begins to uncover that things in his life are not as they seem. You see, Christopher may be autistic, but he's a wiz at math and science and he's also unusually perceptive. The way Haddon goes through Chris's thought process and daily activities is pure genius. And to add depth to the story, I found his parents & some of the other characters in this book, also very "real". There aren't any perfect people in this book, this is real life.
I sincerely recommend this book to you. It's a quick read at only 220 pages, and the wit at which Haddon writes, makes those pages fly by. Very rarely does a book make me laugh out-loud, and this book did that several times. Bravo!
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36 of 38 people found the following review helpful
Format: Paperback
Mark Haddon has written a moving novel about love and bravery through the eyes of a British autistic boy. Christopher discovers his neighbor's poodle dead, impaled by a pitchfork, and, because he adores puzzles, he sets out to solve the mystery of who killed Wellington . But Christopher is autistic, a boy who doesn't like to be touched and cannot decipher emotions beyond the tools his teacher has taught him, and so the task requires the huge effort of testing rules and facing his own fears. A literalist by neurology, he deconstructs life into a set of mathematical equations and physical laws. This unique perspective makes him a good detective on one level, where clues and logic rule, but it also fails him on another, higher one because he cannot understand the magnitude of what he uncovers.

That Haddon was able to write a book from Christopher's point of view with all his quirks and still make him lovable is extraordinary. By necessity, the writing is simple and unadorned, but the language of details elevates it from the mundane. The insertion of mathematical puzzles and drawings add to the reader's understanding of how Christopher's mind works. Haddon's real skill is an understatement that allows the reader to comprehend what is going on even if Christopher cannot. Although Christopher cannot grasp subtlety and nuances, the reader can, and that's where the true force of this exceptional novel lies.

This short, easy to read book can be completed in a couple of sittings, although its impact will last much longer. Highly recommended for a general readership.
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38 of 41 people found the following review helpful
on July 30, 2003
Format: Hardcover
This book is really something. First of all, it's a fantastic summer read -- it could easily be devoured in one sitting, which you probably will, because it's impossible to put down. At the same time, it is rich, provocative, morbidly funny at times, and ultimately incredibly poignant and inspiring.
The book's a bit difficult to describe. More accurately, I can give a pretty good description but I'm afraid it won't give you a very good sense of what the book is about. "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time" is told from the point of view of an autistic boy, who understands mathematics and science perfectly, but other people (who tell lies and believe in things that aren't true) not at all. When he discovers a neighborhood dog that has been killed with a pitchfork, he decides to make like his hero, Sherlock Holmes, and conduct a murder investigation. I don't want to say any more except that in the process of his investigation, the boy learns much, much more than who killed the dog.
The other thing I want to say is that I bawled at the end. The story is told from the point of view of someone who lacks the ability to feel or understand ordinary, messy human emotions -- it's often as though there is a sort of plastic bubble around the boy through which emotion is not allowed to penetrate. The effect of this on _me_, oddly, was to _intensify_ the powerful emotional content of the novel.
The portrait of a person with Asperger's Syndrome (the form of autism displayed by the boy) is stunning and unique, and will be of interest to anyone who knows someone with this condition. But the portrait of humanity in all its frailty and exaltation is what makes the book truly marvelous, sometimes disturbing, and ultimately, curiously, joyously, uplifting.
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37 of 41 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon June 23, 2003
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
Some books you read and enjoy because they keep you entertained while you are reading them, but then you put them back on the shelf and essentially forget them. More rarely, you read a book that stays with you long after you have finished it. This book is one of those rare ones, and it is one of the best novels I have read in months or even years. If you are hesitating to buy it because you aren't interested in autism, I would encourage you to try it anyway. The narration by an autistic teenager does indeed give the book a unique perspective, but it is by no means only a "book about autism." Instead, the novel grapples with themes relevant to anybody's life, such as love, family duty, betrayal, and trust.
Having said that, I will acknowledge that the author has accomplished a tremendous writing feat in adopting the perspective of a boy with autism, and I admire his writing style enormously. Somehow he is able to evoke strong emotional reactions in the reader while narrating events in a dispassionate, "just the facts" style devoid of any affect: Christopher writes of his mother's death in exactly the same tone as he does the death of a neighbor's dog. Yet somehow this style works--when Christopher notes that "there were tears running down Father's face," the reader knows that this calm observation has no emotional impact for Christopher, but the reader grasps the context and feels like crying, too.
Another aspect of this novel I admired greatly is that Haddon does not romanticize or sugarcoat the world of special needs individuals. According to the biographical material, Haddon has been a teacher of students with developmental disorders, and his description of the abilities and traits of a teenager with autism ring true. Unlike most Hollywood portrayals of autism (think "Rainman," which was exceedingly unrealistic), the character of Christopher displays not only the unique gifts but also the tremendous parenting challenges associated with autism. He is a math whiz, but he also frequently wets himself, and when he is overwhelmed in public places, he groans or screams until taken away. While there is no tidy happy ending to this story --like any autistic person, Christopher will not experience a miraculous "cure"-- the reader nonetheless ends up with a sincere admiration for Chistopher's strength and courage, as well as that of Christopher's family.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on June 21, 2003
Format: Hardcover
This is a very unusual novel mostly because of the narrator's autism. Simple to read, the novel has an interesting rhythm to it as the reader becomes more familiar with Christopher's disability. While I initially thought it would become repetitive, the story takes some turns to make it a consistently enjoyable reading experience.
Christopher begins to write the book to solve the mystery of the murder of Wellington, a neighbor's dog, like his hero Sherlock Holmes. Along the way, we learn about his family situation, his view of the world, his idiosyncrasies, and his school life. He's not exactly an unreliable narrator, but the author does an excellent job of imagining the problems involved when the storyteller has autism and the story is consistent with this perspective.
While not a perfect book, I would recommend this highly, especially to people who want a fresh and different reading experience. It's not at all preachy, and it deals with a little understood disability with honesty; this reader came away from the book with a new understanding of the difficulties of dealing with autism. It is well worth your time to pick this one up.
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30 of 33 people found the following review helpful
on January 27, 2006
Format: Paperback
Today I decided to write a review. My counselor, who is called Harvest, told me that people like to read reviews about how you feel about a certain book. So I decided to write my review about The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time. This is because it is the last book I read. Even though my memory is really good, my memory about this book is the best.

I read some other reviews before writing this. A lot of people are saying that this book is about the dog being murdered. But I don't think it's about the dog. I think they are just being stupid because the book is really about a boy and his perception of the world. His perspective is unique and I think that's why the author thought it would make a good book. (I like that the boy is a lot like me. He doesn't like being touched and neither do I.) Harvest says I shouldn't call people stupid, but I don't understand why I can't call them that when that's how they're being.

A lot of people said this book was sad or depressing. I don't think it was sad or depressing. It made me feel safe. This is because the author writes in very simple terms. This made it easy to understand.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest is an example of something depressing. I haven't read the book, but I have seen the movie, and it made me feel like this: >>> :( <<<. It is about a mental patient and it has a very tragic ending. I liked it because the movie has Jack Nicholson in it. Jack Nicholson is a good actor. I know this because he is very old and he has been in a lot of movies. And because he gets paid a lot to appear in his movies.

My counselor told me that I should write about what I liked and did not like about the book. Here is a list of what I liked:

1. I liked that the story was unique and very different from other books I read. There was a mystery, and I like mysteries.
2. I liked that the boy in the story tried to teach us random things (about maths problems and the constellations and how people think and God). I like to learn new things.
3. I liked it when he went off on tangents because tangents make me think of maths and I like maths. (I was going to show you my favorite maths problem involving tangents and parametric equations here, but Harvest says people aren't interested in reading about maths problems.)
4. I liked that he let us see the world through the boy's eyes. But I have already talked about this so I won't talk about it anymore.
5. I liked that I was always interested to see what would happen.
6. I liked that he liked animals because I like animals too.
7. I liked that it was short and I read it very fast.
8. I liked the illustrations, maps, and diagrams.

And here is what I did not like:

1. I think most people could probably write like this author writes. But it doesn't bother me too much since the story is interesting and good.
2. Sometimes the actions of the characters seemed a little too convenient. But it didn't bother me too much because it is not a true story.
3. His writing style is like mine. It was nice, but by the end I was a little bored with it. This is because it made me feel like I was reading a book that I wrote.
4. There was one inconsistency, and it bothered me. In chapter 113 he says he does not understand people because they imagine things that aren't real. Then right away in the next chapter he talks about imagining something that isn't real. This is a lie, and I don't understand why people tell lies.

Overall, I think the book should get 4 stars.

(New readers please note: This review deliberately mimicks the style of the book in order to give you an idea of how it reads.)
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