The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time by Mark Haddon
Publication Date: July 2003
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.