Tuesday, September 2, 2014

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

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. Although gifted with a superbly logical brain, Christopher is autistic. Everyday interactions and admonishments have little meaning for him. Routine, order and predictability shelter him from the messy, wider world. Then, at fifteen, Christopher’s carefully constructed world falls apart when he finds his neighbor’s dog, Wellington, impaled on a garden fork, and he is initially blamed for the killing.

Christopher decides that he will track down the real killer and turns to his favorite fictional character, the impeccably logical Sherlock Holmes, for inspiration. But the investigation leads him down some unexpected paths and ultimately brings him face to face with the dissolution of his parents’ marriage. As he tries to deal with the crisis within his own family, we are drawn into the workings of Christopher’s mind.

I was hesitant to read Mark Haddon's critically acclaimed novel. I had heard that the story was “weird” because it was from an “odd” perspective. What I think everyone might have been trying to articulate was that it read differently because it was from an autistic perspective. People said it was alright, terrible, or good. Very rarely did I hear that it was astonishingly well written. My personal experience turned out to be a mixture of both positive and negative aspects.

Truthfully, this book was super short but I read it with the speed of a tortoise. I found the voice of Christopher to be quite gripping. One of my good friends has a brother with autism and I think Mark Haddon stayed true to what behavior is often displayed by people who have autism or similar syndromes. Christopher was quick as a whip with complex concepts and clueless when it came to simple social situations. It mirrored the reality of someone with Asperger syndrome, as well as anyone who struggles socially.

I liked that Christopher's condition was never directly mentioned. There were hints here and there yet it remained inconclusive. I think that left a door open for people to perceive the story more universally. As for the setting, I didn't find it particularly interesting that the characters were located in England. I thought that it might as well have taken place in New York. I will say, I did love the mention of London and how it played a larger role as the novel progressed.

Honestly, I can see how others called the entirety of the novel weird. I don't think it was Christopher's condition but rather what was included in the narrative. Sure, there were moments where I felt as though I learned something new and that was awesome. To say that everything Haddon wrote was necessary would be a lie. It wasn't. Christopher had some cool bits of knowledge to share but the middle of the book seemed to drag on once in awhile.

The character development wasn't mind blowing. However, the characters themselves were easy to follow. I liked Christopher's dad and mom for who they were: mistake making people that counterbalanced poor decisions with love for their son. I liked that the plot branched off of the dog, Wellington, and grew organically from that. All in all, I'm happy to have finally read this since, ya know, it came out in 2003. Better late than never!

3.75 out of 5 stars 

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