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

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

Reviewed by L.D.Y.

Hardcover (available in trade), 226 pages, 2002

Rating: 8/10

Reason for Reading: Longlisted for the 2003 Booker prize.

Synopsis: Fifteen-year-old Christopher, the narrator of the book, is autistic ‘ unable to comprehend human emotions, but absolutely brilliant mathematically and scientifically. When Christopher finds a neighbour’s dog murdered with a pitchfork, he decides to find out who did it, using the logical Sherlock Holmes as his model. His sleuthing skills end up uncovering more than he could have dreamed of – and possibly more than he can understand.

Why you should read this book: Christopher has an interesting and fresh outlook on things, occasionally humourous, such as when he rationalizes disobeying his father; to the heartbreaking, such as when he can’t understand what the people around him are trying to convey. There are surprising turns in the novel that hold the reader’s interest beyond just the murder of the dog, and there’s often unexpected depth in both Christopher’s insight and in the things he doesn’t understand.

Why you should avoid this book: The book lags in parts, as Christopher makes observations that the reader catches the meaning of immediately, but but is then forced to wait around for Christopher to make the leap. Which, of course, is the point, but it doesn’t always make for the most interesting reading. Same thing goes for Christopher explaining multiple math problems that go far over the head of the average reader.

Opening paragraph:

It was 7 minutes after midnight. The dog was lying on the grass in the middle of the lawn in front of Mrs. Shears’s house. Its eyes were closed. It looked as if it was running on its side, the way dogs run when they think they are chasing a cat in a dream. But the dog was not running or asleep. The dog was dead. There was a garden fork sticking out of the dog. The points of the fork must have gone all the way through the dog and into the ground because the fork had not fallen over. I decided that the dog was probably killed with the fork because I could not see any other wounds in the dog and I do not think you would stick a garden fork into a dog after it had died for some other reason, like cancer, for example, or a road accident. But I could not be certain about this.

Fabulous quotes:

When I got home Father was sitting at the table in the kitchen and he had made my supper. He was wearing a lumberjack shirt. The supper was baked beans and broccoli and two slices of ham and they were laid out on the plate so that they were not touching.
He said, ‘Where have you been?’

And I said, ‘I have been out.’ This is called a white lie. A white lie is not a lie at all. It is where you tell the truth but you do not tell all of the truth. This means that everything you say is a white lie because when someone says, for example, ‘What do you want to do today?’ you say, ‘I want to do painting with Mrs. Peters,’ but you don’t say, ‘I want to have my lunch and I want to go to the toilet and I want to go home after school and I want to play with Toby and I want to have my supper and I want to play on my computer and I want to go to bed.’ And I said a white lie because I knew that Father didn’t want me to be a detective.

I don’t like it when people grab me. And I don’t like being surprised either. So I hit him, like I hit the policeman when he took hold of my arms and lifted me onto my feet. But Father didn’t let go, and he was shouting. And I hit him again. And then I didn’t know what I was doing anymore.
I had no memories for a short while. I know it was a short while because I checked my watch afterward. It was like someone had switched me off and then switched me on again. And when they switched me on again I was sitting on the carpet with my back against the wall and there was blood on my right hand and the side of my head was hurting.

Also recommended: When I Was Five I Killed Myself by Howard Buten; Vernon God Little by DBC Pierre; Astonishing Splashes of Colour by Clare Morrall.

Also by this author: A Spot of Bother.

Awards: Whitbread Novel Award: Winner, 2003; Whitbread Book of the Year: Winner, 2003.

© Lisa Yanaky 2003-2007

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