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

April 29, 2006

This is my review of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.  Hereafter reffered to as "Incident."  Or maybe "Curious."  Or maybe "Dog."

Night-Time is a book about an autistic boy named Christopher who discovers his neigbor's dog, dead – killed with a garden fork.  He likes the dog, and is quite distressed by his discovery.  He is found by the neigbor, holding the bloody poodle in his arms, rocking back and forth, making moaning noises.

The book is 'written' by Christopher, who has an assignment from a teacher to write a story.  

Then the police arrived.  I like the police.  They have uniforms and numbers and you know what they are meant to be doing.  There was a policewoman and a policeman.  The policewoman had a little hole in her tights on her left ankle and a red scratch in the middle of the hole.  The policeman had a big orange leaf stuck to the bottom of his shoe which was poking out on one side…

…"How old are you?" he asked.

I replied, "I am 15 years and 3 months and 2 days."

"And what, precisely, were you doing in the garden?" he asked.

"I was holding the dog."  I replied.

"And why were you holding the dog?" he asked.

This was a difficult question.  It was something I wanted to do. I like dogs.  It made me sad to see that the dog was dead. 

I like policemen too, and I wanted to answer the question properly, but the policeman did not give me enough time to work out the correct answer…

…He was asking too many questions and he was asking them too quickly.  They were stacking up in my head like loaves in the factory where Uncle Terry works.  The factory is a bakery and he operates slicing machines.  And sometimes a slicer is not working fast enough but the bread keeps coming and there is a blockage.  I sometimes think of my mind as a machine, but not always a bread-slicing machine.  It makes it easier to explain to other people what is going on inside it.

The policeman said, "I am going to ask you once again…"

I rolled back onto the lawn and pressed my forehead to the ground again and made the noise that father calls groaning.  I make this noise when there is too much information coming into my head from the outside world.  It is like when you are upset and you hold the radio against your ear and you tune it halfway between two stations so that all you get is white noise and you turn the volume right up so that this is all you can hear and then you know you are safe because you cannot hear anything else.

The policeman took hold of my arm and lifted me onto my feet.

I didn't like him touching me like that.

And this is when I hit him.

Christopher decides that, although everybody has 'forgiven' him (since he is a 'special boy') he's still going to prove his innocence.  And write a paper for his teacher at the same time. 

Christopher can not understand, nor feel complex emotion.  He understands happy and sad.  So he relies on logic for most of what he does in his life.   And it is great to read this book and find that, as Christopher follows the methods of his hero – Sherlock Holmes, he gets it right.  And not just about the dog, but about why his life is the way it is, why his father is doing what he does, and the story of his family. 

In the meantime, you get to understand more and more about Christopher and autism.  After just a few pages it's hard to believe that there really isn't a Christopher John Francis Boone out there who wrote this book.   Soon you find yourself promising yourself that the next time you encounter a person with emotional dissasociation you will remember what you are reading at that moment. 

It's a good book because it changes the reader.  It's a good book because it's a great story from simple circumstances.  A very rich, complex, heartwrenching and rewarding world from the view of a boy who can only see things literally. 

I give it a 4 on a scale of -5 to 5

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