The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time – Mark Haddon

Book #19

Reviewer: Inspirational Reads

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. And he detests the color yellow.

This improbable story of Christopher’s quest to investigate the suspicious death of a neighborhood dog makes for one of the most captivating, unusual, and widely heralded novels in recent years.

This quirky novel is one told in first person perspective, being that of a 15 year old boy named Christopher who has an Apergers Syndrome type condition.  He wakes one morning to find his neighbour’s dog has been killed and he sets out to investigate what happened.  This is a mystery and Christopher is the most unique of detectives, with highly detailed observations including diagrams.  Oh, and lets not forget that the chapters are in ordered prime numbers.

Those expecting a traditional whodunnit mystery may be slightly disappointed.  The mystery is the vehicle in which we become familiar with Christopher’s thoughts, his life and his relationships in it.  And it is this insight which makes this novel fascinating and a highly enjoyable read.  Christopher is so knowledgeable about so many different things but as we would expect, he is less than aware when it comes to personal relationships.  Especially that with his father who has recently separated from his mother, the stress of a high needs child being too much for their marriage.  The reader is aware of something that Christopher is not – how desperately his father loves him and all that he does to try and elicit this emotion from his son.  I found this the most poignant and saddest part of the tale, but it is also what elevated it beyond a showcase of Christopher’s savant abilities and entertaining musings.

I was interested to read that although the author Mark Haddon had previously worked with disabled children, he has stated that he knows very little on the subject and did no research.  Christopher’s voice is so clear and unflinching that his character never felt contrived.  I have not had any experience in dealing with anyone who has autism or Aspergers, but general consensus is that Haddon achieved a realistic portrayal despite he himself recommending reading work by autistic authors for a true account.

Although written for an adult audience, Haddon’s publishers recommended marketing it to both adults and children.  Before learning of this, I passed it on to my 11 year old to read (he gets to cross one off the 1001 list!) and he too thoroughly enjoyed it.  Yes, you do discover along with Christopher what happened to the dog in a not too surprising reveal but this story is so much more than this curious incident.  This is a quick, surprisingly emotional read, one that I highly recommend.


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