Book Review: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time Jan23

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Book Review: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

Those of you who read my earlier post may recall that while I loved reading fiction when I was a kid, high school completely beat that love out of me. One of my personal goals has been to start reading again, and to start, I picked a book that fit my number one requirement: It was short. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is only 221 pages long, the type is large, and the pages are small. Of course, if the book had been boring, I still wouldn’t have made it past the first chapter. Luckily, that was not a problem. Right off the bat, a dog is brutally and mysteriously killed.

This incident is basis for the title and plot of the book, as the main character/narrator, a 15-year-old boy named Christopher Boone, attempts to figure out who the culprit is. As the story begins, you can tell that Christopher is different from other people. Although it is never stated outright, it becomes clear that Christopher has an autism spectrum disorder, most likely Asperger syndrome. Christopher has trouble relating to people. He admits that people are confusing because they “do a lot of talking without using any words.” (p. 14) He explains that he’s been taught “that if you raise one eyebrow it can mean lots of different things. It can mean ‘I want to do sex with you’ and it can also mean ‘I think that what you just said was very stupid.’”  (p. 14-15) Some of Christopher’s additional quirks are that he can’t eat his food after the individual items on his plate have been touching each other, he hates things that are yellow or brown, and his strongest connections are to the dog that was killed and to his pet rat, Toby.

As the book begins to describe Christopher’s detective work in trying to find out who killed the dog, I found myself much more interested in the unique way Christopher went about investigating the case than in who actually killed the dog. The author, Mark Haddon, does a great job of putting you in the mind of Christopher,  asking you to see the world from Christopher’s perspective. Christopher is nothing short of a math genius and has an incredible mind for counting and explaining details about the solar system. Christopher’s nature allows him to not worry about some of the great questions of life. For example, on dying, he says that, “What actually happens when you die is that your brain stops working and your body rots, like Rabbit did when he died and we buried him in the earth.” (p. 33)

I became very emotionally connected to Christopher. When he finally discovers what truly happened to his mom, I felt terrible for him. As the reader, you understand the actions of both parents; however, it is heartbreaking to witness Christopher work out in his head what has happened. I felt that the story was incredibly believable outside of one incident toward the end of the novel, where Christopher chases his pet rat into a subway tunnel and is barely saved from an oncoming train. I didn’t feel that the scene was particularly necessary. For all of the chances he was taking and all the danger he was putting himself through, that scene just felt over the top.

The mysteries of the novel play out slowly, often through secondary characters. More often than not the reader understands what is happening before Christopher does, but you want to see how he’ll figure it out. His successes, while minor by general standards, feel incredibly satisfying and courageous given Christopher’s challenges.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time was a great re-introduction to fiction for me. This was the first novel I’ve read in the last ten years that I actually chose to read instead of playing video games. That in and of itself is a great compliment.

If you have any suggestions for additional light train reading, let me know in the comments.

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