Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Review: 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


Pages: 226
Genre: Literary/Contemporary
Publisher: Vintage
Publication Date: July 2003

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. 

Although gifted with a superbly logical brain, for fifteen-year-old Christopher everyday interactions and admonishments have little meaning. He lives on patterns, rules, and a diagram kept in his pocket. Then one day, a neighbor's dog, Wellington, is killed and his carefully constructed universe is threatened. Christopher sets out to solve the murder in the style of his favorite (logical) detective, Sherlock Holmes. What follows makes for a novel that is funny, poignant and fascinating in its portrayal of a person whose curse and blessing are a mind that perceives the world entirely literally.
I agree with Christopher—this book’s brilliant narrator—about three things:

1. Dogs are important.
2. Blue Planet is one of the best TV shows.
3. Anybody who touches me deserves to be punched.



“I like dogs. You always know what a dog is thinking. It has four moods. Happy, sad, cross and concentrating. Also, dogs are faithful and they do not tell lies because they cannot talk.” – The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time



Fifteen-year-old Christopher has been blessed and cursed with an unusual brain. He’s a genus who can solve complex math problems and remember entire conversations word-for-word. But, he’s unable to relate to other people. He doesn’t understand jokes or facial expressions, and he dreams of a world where he’s the only human alive. Animals are much easier for him to befriend. When the neighbor’s poodle is mysteriously stabbed to death in the middle of the night, Christopher is devastated. He sets out to uncover what happened to the dog. Along the way, he unearths secrets buried in his father’s past and learns what really happened on the day his mother died.

People have been recommending this book to me for about a decade. I remember when it first came out. It was everywhere. It was on all the award lists. If you walked past an airport bookstore, you just saw a solid wall of violently orange poodle books. I didn’t read the book back then because I’m a contrary creature. If everybody is doing something, I have to do the opposite. I refused to read it until the hype was deader than the poodle on the cover.

And . . . all the recommenders were correct. I loved this book. I should have read it 10+ years ago.  

The author never reveals what makes Christopher’s brain different, but he does an excellent job of showing Christopher’s differences. Chris is a believable character with a unique voice and an odd way of seeing the world. The story sometimes goes on random tangents because Christopher’s definition of “important information” is different than the reader’s. The math-related tangents were baffling to me, but I never found them annoying. They fit perfectly with the character’s personality. He’s a peculiar person who really, really likes math.


“All the other children at my school are stupid. Except I'm not meant to call them stupid, even though this is what they are.” – The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time



My favorite part of the story is the conversations that Christopher has with his father. I felt bad for laughing, but some of them are hilarious. It must suck to parent a kid who can find loopholes in all your rules and repeat your exact words back to you days after you said them. Christopher would be an endlessly frustrating child.

Normally I’d never put the last sentence of a book in a review (because spoilers!), but this line is too important not to share:


“And I know I can do this because I went to London on my own, and because I solved the mystery . . . and I was brave and I wrote a book and that means I can do anything.” – The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time



This novel shows that we all have different abilities. Christopher is capable of writing books and passing difficult math tests, but taking a train to London is nearly impossible for him. I, on the other hand, have wasted a lot of my life on public transportation. I could probably figure out how to get to London. Can I figure out how to write a book or get an A on a math test? Nope. I barely passed math in school. I was a solid C- math student.

For Christopher, going to London was the hardest thing in the world. Now that he’s done it, he feels like he can accomplish anything. It’s an uplifting end to the story.

As much as I like seeing Christopher overcome his fear, I think the last third of the book is tedious. Watching someone ride a train isn’t interesting. The train journey dragged on and on and on. I just wanted Christopher to get to London and finish solving the mystery.

Speaking of the mystery, I didn’t guess who killed the dog. I always love a twist that I don’t see coming. The mystery kept me motivated to push through the overly long train ride section of the book. Christopher’s unique way of seeing the world and the mystery made this novel worth reading for me.



TL;DR: Tedious at times, but the unusual narrator and compelling mystery make up for it. Don’t wait 10+ years to read this book.  













22 comments:

  1. I was one of those who bought this at the airport lol. I was on my way to Cameroon as an aide worker and it became my solace when I got fed up with the French Language.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That’s so cool! I remember seeing a solid wall of these orange books at an airport. I don’t remember where I was going, though.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

      Delete
  2. I've been wanting to read this book forever! It's been sitting on my bookshelf and I think, "one day, I'll get to it." Great review, by the way.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I've had this book sitting on my bookshelf forever! Glad to see how much you enjoyed it. Maybe I'll try it this year!

    ReplyDelete
  4. You read the most interesting books! I've never even heard of this one, but I'm glad you enjoyed it! I'm not sure about reading it since you say the last 3rd isn't as good, but maybe I'll put it on standby! Thanks for sharing!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, the last third is kind of tedious. The rest of it is really good, though.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

      Delete
  5. Umm... You have a Doctorate in Literature but you don't think you can write a book? I think somebody needs to sip from a warm mug of self esteem.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If you judge writing skills by how many rejection letters you get, then I have 0 skills. :)

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

      Delete
  6. I definitely have the unpopular opinion in not liking this book, but I really enjoyed reading through your review! You've actually made me want to give it a re-read one of these days and re-evaluate it! I don't even remember the ending, but I do remember enjoying some of the dialogue. Great review!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks! I can understand why some people wouldn’t like it. It’s slow in places, and the narrator probably gets on a lot of readers’ nerves.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

      Delete
  7. I'm so glad to hear that you loved this one. I think I read it when it came out - it's been years for sure. I really enjoyed it too. I feel like I should re-read it at some point in the near future. :)

    -Lauren
    www.shootingstarsmag.net

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I can see myself rereading it in the future. I liked it a lot.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

      Delete
  8. I laughed every time Christopher talked to his father and I also felt guilty about doing it!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. YES! I felt like I shouldn’t laugh because the narrator didn’t think the conversations were funny, but they were funny.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

      Delete
  9. I don't remember the details of this anymore - probably 5+ years since I read it, but still remember being absolutely blown away by the unique narration :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yep. “Unique” is a good way to describe Christopher. I haven’t come across many narrators like him.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

      Delete
  10. I read this years ago for a class in college. But I remember loving the narrator and enjoying the humor too. Great Review!
    Tori @ In Tori Lex

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks! I was surprised at how funny this book is.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

      Delete
  11. I LOVE this book!! Great review!!

    ReplyDelete
  12. I have heard so much about this classic and I actually do own it. I just haven't read it yet. I am glad you could love it and also agree with the main character about those points. Unpredictability is always good in my book, and it sounds like you really liked the character too.

    ReplyDelete