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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 an alternate Paperback 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 an alternate Paperback edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.
Although I can truthfully say that I could understand Christopher’s feelings through each and every word, I had difficulty loving him as an individual. Throughout the book, Christopher comes to strongly dislike a certain man, but the man truly wants to love Christopher with all his heart. Christopher begins to stop displaying any sort of affection to the man, which really left me with pain in my heart. As a sympathetic person, I felt extremely horrible about the situation. I do realize that Christopher has trouble understanding others’ feelings, but if he just showed one small moment of love to the man, I would come to enjoy the main character’s unique personality.
Anyone searching for a small ray of hope would definitely come to love this book. This novel builds up to the amazing theme at the very end, which indubitably gave me ambition to do just about anything. Readers who are searching for a book filled with mystery and action will be thrilled. I can certainly say I had a wonderful little adventure of my own by reading this small paperback.