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

Posted on Jul 5, 2008
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon is a crime novel. Except it's written from the point of view of a 15 year old autistic boy.

This book was actually released in 2003 so I'm a bit late for the review, but I just stumbled upon it a few days ago at a friend's place. And the bright colour and really long rambling title really intrigued me.

So, meet Cristopher Boone, who wants to be an astronaut, loves animals more than humans, has a photographic memory and brilliant logic but can't tell what other people feel and has no notion of metaphors and cultural references. Unlike many of us he cannot follow the 'I am thinking about what you are thinking about what I'm thinking' process that often happens. The only concept of emotion he has is a list of emoticons expressing common faces.

Haddon does not try to invoke pity, Christopher is in no way purposely projected as someone worse than us. He lives with his Father and thinks his Mother is dead. When his neighbour's dog is killed he sets off to find the killer in an independent manner, in the process escapes to London and comes to reality with the fate of his Mother.

Since the story is told from his view, and his lack of emotion and future projection means that he has no reason to lie leads to a very truthful story, even to the point of making normal readers squeamish. He writes about poo, and sex and swear words with no change in tone than if he was talking about the weather. He doesn't feel death when he narrowly misses it and when he gets an A grade in his Math A-levels the only thing he feels is

At 134 pages the book is a quick read and there is no actual crime-solving but Christopher's need to fit into the world is very well written and a window into the mind of autistic people. At the same time it lets us marvel at the beauty of our brain to reject so much information and yet generate so much of its own with no bindings to any law.

Along the way the book has a sprinkling of math, including naming all chapters with prime numbers. Christopher almost always goes on cubing natural numbers or mentally calculating powers of 2 just to overcome nausea.

I doubled 2's in my head because it made me feel calmer. I got to 33554432, which is 225, which was not very much because I've got to 243 before, but my brain wasn't working very well.
-- Christopher Boone

But at the core the book is humourous with Christopher's long rambling sentences and attention to details leaving you chuckling. Mark Haddon has done an excellent job.