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The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time Paperback – May 18, 2004
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Mark Haddon's bitterly funny debut novel, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, is a murder mystery of sorts--one told by an autistic version of Adrian Mole. Fifteen-year-old Christopher John Francis Boone is mathematically gifted and socially hopeless, raised in a working-class home by parents who can barely cope with their child's quirks. He takes everything that he sees (or is told) at face value, and is unable to sort out the strange behavior of his elders and peers.
Late one night, Christopher comes across his neighbor's poodle, Wellington, impaled on a garden fork. Wellington's owner finds him cradling her dead dog in his arms, and has him arrested. After spending a night in jail, Christopher resolves--against the objection of his father and neighbors--to discover just who has murdered Wellington. He is encouraged by Siobhan, a social worker at his school, to write a book about his investigations, and the result--quirkily illustrated, with each chapter given its own prime number--is The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.
Haddon's novel is a startling performance. This is the sort of book that could turn condescending, or exploitative, or overly sentimental, or grossly tasteless very easily, but Haddon navigates those dangers with a sureness of touch that is extremely rare among first-time novelists. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is original, clever, and genuinely moving: this one is a must-read. --Jack Illingworth, Amazon.ca --This text refers to the Digital edition.
From Publishers Weekly
Christopher Boone, the autistic 15-year-old narrator of this revelatory novel, relaxes by groaning and doing math problems in his head, eats red-but not yellow or brown-foods and screams when he is touched. Strange as he may seem, other people are far more of a conundrum to him, for he lacks the intuitive "theory of mind" by which most of us sense what's going on in other people's heads. When his neighbor's poodle is killed and Christopher is falsely accused of the crime, he decides that he will take a page from Sherlock Holmes (one of his favorite characters) and track down the killer. As the mystery leads him to the secrets of his parents' broken marriage and then into an odyssey to find his place in the world, he must fall back on deductive logic to navigate the emotional complexities of a social world that remains a closed book to him. In the hands of first-time novelist Haddon, Christopher is a fascinating case study and, above all, a sympathetic boy: not closed off, as the stereotype would have it, but too open-overwhelmed by sensations, bereft of the filters through which normal people screen their surroundings. Christopher can only make sense of the chaos of stimuli by imposing arbitrary patterns ("4 yellow cars in a row made it a Black Day, which is a day when I don't speak to anyone and sit on my own reading books and don't eat my lunch and Take No Risks"). His literal-minded observations make for a kind of poetic sensibility and a poignant evocation of character. Though Christopher insists, "This will not be a funny book. I cannot tell jokes because I do not understand them," the novel brims with touching, ironic humor. The result is an eye-opening work in a unique and compelling literary voice.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Digital edition.
Top customer reviews
The narrator, Christopher, lacks empathy, which makes the simplest interpersonal exchange torturous. Unable to discern what someone means whenever the conversation deviates even the tiniest amount from the strictly literal, communication is a minefield. In such a world, it becomes difficult to distinguish the benign from the lethal, so it is necessary for Christopher to develop various coping skills that primarily involve withdrawing from human contact, often in ways that are alarming to others.
"And then I couldn't see the walls anymore and the back of someone's jacket touched my knee and I felt sick and I started groaning really loudly and the lady on the bench stood up and no one else sat down."
Christopher is undeniably a tragic character, but the tragedy extends beyond himself and envelopes his parents as well. He is a bowling ball run amok, knocking over the pins of their lives as they deal with one crisis after another.
This is not an easy read. It is not a mystery story. It is not really a story at all. Although there is a sequence of events, it would be a stretch to call it a plot. It is however, an illuminating look at life with autism.
On the other hand, the story has some details that could be changed to alter the impact of the book. For example, in the end of the novel, Mark Haddon built up the story by adding dramatic moments which made the novel more fascinating to read but it ended with a sudden pause that left us asking for more. It also had a sudden change during the ending because after everything seemed to go wrong, it changed really quick which left the reader thinking “Is that even possible?” To add on, another thing that Mark could have changed was the timing or moment when the climax occurred in the book, this event could have been used more ahead of the story to make it a bit more appealing for the reader.
-10th Grade Students
This is a book written from the first-person point of view of a fifteen year old boy with autism and a very good understanding of facts and numbers (maths). He focuses and relies on the here and now, the real things of this world, and math problems. He doesn't like idioms, similes, metaphors, slang, or imagination. Facts are much more preferred, thank you. The book starts on the night that he finds Wellington skewered with a garden fork on Mrs. Shears front lawn, an event that he is later blamed and questioned about. He determines that he has to find out who murdered Wellington and the life that he thought he knew and was comfortable with swiftly begins to unravel. For a boy who doesn't understand human emotions a lot of events puzzle him and he has a hard time coping and understanding why some people do and choose the things that they do, it's not logical, even if it is human.
Mark Haddon does a remarkable job at capturing the mindset and ideas of an individual with autism and expressing it in a way readers can relate to. This book illustrates how some mindsets can be different. Where some individuals focus on feelings, others enjoy literature, and still others are focused on numbers and facts, things that are measurable and recordable, like Christopher. Sometimes different mindsets make certain things easy for individuals to understand while other topics and ideas are alien and something that makes ones' head spin. This is a tale of murder, mystery, a hidden past, and an unsure future of a boy who likes to deal in absolutes and certainties. But all it takes is one variable in the equation to change for the outcome be to a different world entirely.
Overall this book is really well-written and an interesting read. Highly recommended for those working with individuals with autism or other neo-neurological learning disabilities. Also a good read for those looking for different perspectives or books that make you question the writer/reporters point of view.