Saturday 19 March 2011

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

Never judge a book by its cover. So far I have used this expression only in its metaphorical sense - do not judge people by their outward appearance. I never thought that one day I will use in its literary sense. If I had judged the book by its cover (and its title for that matter) I would never have read The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon and I would have missed a lot.

When my flatmate gave me the book I was shocked. The front cover was a disaster - a dog stabbed by a garden fork. It looked as if some 5 year old child had drawn it quite unsuccessfully. Next, I looked at the title... The Curious Incident with the Dog... What?! Wait! This is far too long to be a title. In fact it was quite long but it had no promising meaning as to the content of the book. I opened the first page. The first chapter was not chapter 1, it was chapter 2! I flipped the pages several times, thinking that the problem is me of course, but no! The first chapter was indeed chapter 2.

So far, the novel didn't do anything to grab me. But my laptop was broken, I didn't have any other books to read, I am not a huge fan of the TV, so...I just resigned and I started reading.

Sometimes the books that look unappealing are just the ones you need to read at that particular moment. Haddon's novel quite proves that notion. It is told in first point-of view, with the main character being the 15-years-old Christopher. In the first chapter (my mistake, in the second chapter) the boy is startled to find that the neighbor's dog has been killed with a garden knife. Christopher is upset; he loves dogs and he decides that if the police is not going to solve the case, he is. Thus, the young detective and narrator sets on a terrifying journey to discover who killed the dog. In the process, however, he discovers hidden truths in his family that are going to turn his world upside down.

Up to this point, nothing so impressing. If you keep reading though, you will understand what makes this book special. The main character. Christopher is not a usual boy. He is autistic; he is great at maths and physics but he doesn't know anything about the human relationships. He is afraid to be touched or to be in the same room with strangers. He hates the colors yellow and brown and loves red. He doesn't eat pieces of food that touch each other. He loves patterns, puzzles, and logic and he knows all the prime numbers up to 3,000. That is why all of the chapters have only numbers that are prime.

Prime numbers are what is left when you have taken all the patterns away. I think prime numbers are like life. They are very logical but you could never work out the rules even if you spent all your time thinking about them.

Christopher notices details that most other people don't. He loves the sky and the universe, he dreams of being an astronaut or a scientist and he has never been by himself further than the street he lives on. Thus, you can imagine the difficulties of the boy, when he sets on a journey to find the murderer of the dog, a journey that even takes him to London.

Actually, the author never mentions it, but most critics assume that Christopher has the Asperger's syndrome (disorder that is characterized by significant difficulties in social interaction, along with restricted and repetitive patterns of behavior and interests). Accordingly, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is written simply and understandably. It features a lot of drawings, maps, and lists. In fact, this unusual aspect makes its immerse effect on the reader even more powerful. Haddon shows a great understanding of the autistic mind and the way it works. Sad, funny, challenging, surprising, this novel is going to make you laugh, cry, and think seriously about the people with disabilities.


  1. I'm just readind it and I love it.
    So weird, when I saw the book in the bookshop I was attracted by the front cover...
    So easy to read (I'm not English/American), funny and sad at the same time.
    It's easy to fall in love with Christopher and his life...

  2. Sorry... I meant "reading"...not readind... :-(

  3. In The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, the author Mark Haddon did a great job of letting the reader view the world through the eyes of an autistic child. Christopher Boone struggles in aspects of lfie that are thought of to be very simple, however excels at difficult things such as math and science. Instead of listing facts about autism, the book allows readers to experience it. Seeing, hearing and understanding what and why Christopher does things was a very effective way about teaching readers about autism. In addition to all this, the plotline of the story was very insteresting, with Christopher discovering one mystery after another about his life.

  4. I spent some time in South Africa teaching children who had asperges.

    It was extremely challenging to say the least. They are wonderful and extremely frustrating at the same time. In all likelihood I made the error of teaching them the way I had been taught... fail. They require patience and the ability to be constantly surprised by both their intelligence and unpredictability.

    I was too young back then notice how beautiful they are for their differences and it caused me much frustration. But when I think back now, and after reading the book, I remember those children in a completely new light.

  5. I've just re-read this and really enjoyed it on both readings. I'm not sure if Christopher has asperger's - it seems that way but I think Haddon has cautioned against reading the book like that. It is a really great insight into what it is to think differently, however you read it though! Great post.

    My review: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon

  6. I would love to dissect every last bit of that book, but I don't want to ruin it for anyone who would want to read it. Definitely worth the read!