THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT-TIME by Mark Haddon
Genre: Fiction and Literature
How Acquired: BookCrossing
Reading Began: November 24, 2004
Completed Reading: December 4, 2004
Overall rating: Seven out of ten
Recommendation to others: A highly original narrative perspective makes this book very entertaining, and the surprise ending gives the book a tremendous amount of heart.
Why I chose to read this book: A review in Entertainment Weekly touted this as the second best novel of 2003; I do love a crowd-pleaser.
Further reading by this author: Other works can be found in Children’s Literature
Comments: Having an autistic boy serve as narrator of a novel, and a mystery at that, is pure brilliance, in my opinion. This boy, Christopher, simultaneously charmed me, annoyed me, and wowed me on practically every page. And that makes Mark Haddon one of the best authors I’ve read this year.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time begins as a whodunnit, and for quite some time I rolled along in the mystery, gathering clues and speculating with Christopher on who might have wanted to kill the beloved dog, Wellington. But then, with almost a third of the novel remaining, the mystery is solved (somewhat anti-climactically, I must add) and the story propels into a full-on adventure. It could almost be two completely different novels were it not for the reasons behind the adventure. And that is the genius of the book.
I was captivated by Christopher’s thought processes, by his younger-than-his-years behavior coupled with his wiser-than-most perception of people and the world. There is no dull moment in this small book, even when entire chapters expounded upon the highest-level math equations and broadest logical debates. I simply skimmed through the equations and focused again on Christopher’s explanation of their significance; his explanations made me feel smarter just for having read them, and his narrative shed a bit of light on persons with autism. I’ll not soon forget this protagonist nor the story which brought him to life.
Favorite Characters: Christopher’s father is a man to be admired. He is raising a child with special needs and finding just the right ways to make that child feel like he’s the greatest person in the world. His love is overwhelming, even when described by Christopher who cannot quite grasp the magnitude of such emotion, much less convey it. Even when revealed to be terribly flawed, the father remains a cornerstone of the book and one can’t help but feel great sorrow for his life and the choices he had to make. I shall remember the father as much as I shall remember Christopher.
Chapters in books are usually given the cardinal numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and so on. But I have decided to give my chapters prime numbers 2, 3, 5, 7, 11, 13 and so on because I like prime numbers.
The rule for working out prime numbers is really simple, but no one has ever worked out a simple formula for telling whether a very big number is a prime number or what the next one will be. If a number is really, really big, it can take a computer years to work out whether it is a prime number.
Prime numbers are useful for writing codes and in America they are classed as Military Material and if you find one over 100 digits long you have to tell the CIA and they buy it off you for $10,000. But it would not be a very good way of making a living.
Prime numbers are what is left when you have taken all the patterns away. I think prime numbers are like life. They are very logical but you could never work out all the rules, even if you spent all your time thinking about them. Chapter 19 (pp. 11-12)
The word metaphor means carrying something from one place to another, and it come from the Greek words μετα (which means from one place to another) and Φερειν (which means to carry), and it is when you describe something by using a word for something that it isn’t. This means that the word metaphor is a metaphor. Chapter 29 (p. 15)
All the other children at my school are stupid. Except I’m not meant to call them stupid, even thought that is what they are. I’m meant to say that they have learning difficulties or that they have special needs. But this is stupid because everyone has learning difficulties because learning to speak French or understanding relativity is difficult and also everyone has special needs, like Father, who has to carry a little packet of artificial sweetening tablets around with him to put in his coffee to stop him from getting fat, or Mrs. Peters, who wears a beige-colored hearing aid, or Siobhan, who has glasses so thick that they give you a headache if you borrow them, and none of these people are Special Needs, even if they have special needs. Chapter 71 (pp. 43-44)
My memory is like a film. That is why I am really good at remembering things, like the conversations I have written down in this book, and what people are wearing, and what they smelled like, because my memory has a smelltrack which is like a soundtrack.
And when people ask me to remember something I can simply press Rewind and Fast Forward and Pause like on a video recorder, but more like a DVD player because I don’t have to Rewind through everything in between to get a memory of something a long time ago. And there are no buttons, either, because it is happening in my head. Chapter 113 (p. 76)
But most people are lazy. They never look at everything. They do what is called glancing… And the information in their head is really simple. For example, if they are in the countryside, it might be
1. I am standing in a field that is full of grass.
2. There are some cows in the fields.
3. It is sunny with a few clouds.
4. There are some flowers in the grass.
5. There is a village in the distance.
6. There is a fence at the edge of the field and it has a gate on it.
And then they would stop noticing because they would be thinking something else like, “Oh, it is very beautiful here,” or “I’m worried that I might have left the gas cooker on,” or “I wonder if Julie has given birth yet.”
But if I am standing in a field in the countryside I notice everything. For example, I remember standing in a field on Wednesday, 15 June 1994, because Father and Mother and I were driving to Dover to get a ferry to France and we did what Father called Taking the Scenic Route, which means going by little roads and stopping for lunch in a pub garden, and I had to stop to go for a wee, and I went into a field with cows in it and after I’d had a wee I stopped and looked at the field and I noticed these things
1. There are 19 cows in the field, 15 of which are black and white and 4 of which are brown and white.
2. There is a village in the distance which has 31 visible houses and a church with a square tower and not a spire.
3. There are ridges in the field, which means that in medieval times it was what is called a ridge and furrow field and people who lived in the village would have a ridge each to do farming on.
4. There is an old plastic bag from Asda in the hedge, and a squashed Coca-Cola can with a snail on it, and a long piece of orange string.
5. The northeast corner of the field is highest and the southwest corner is lowest (I had a compass because we were going on holiday and I wanted to know where Swindon was when we were in France) and the field is folded downward slightly along the line between these two corners so that the northwest and southeast corners are slightly lower than they would be if the field was an inclined plane.
6. The cows are mostly facing uphill.
And there were 31 more things in this list of things I noticed but Siobhan said I didn’t need to write them all down. And it means that it is very tiring if I am in a new place because I see all these things, and if someone asked me afterward what the cows looked like, I could ask which one, and I could do a drawing of them at home and say that a particular cow had pattern on it like this [picture on page].
And when I am in a new place, because I see everything, it is like when a computer is doing too many things at the same time and the central processor unit is blocked up and there isn’t any space left to think about other things. And when I am in a new place and there are lots of people there it is even harder because people are not like cows and flowers and grass and they can talk to you and do things you don’t expect, so you have to notice everything that is in the place, and also you have to notice things that might happen as well. And sometimes when I am in a new place and there are lots of people there it is like a computer crashing and I have to close my eyes and put my hands over my ears and groan, which is like pressing CTRL + ALT + DEL and shutting down programs and turning the computer off and rebooting so that I can remember what I am doing and where I am meant to be going.
And that is why I am good at chess and maths and logic, because most people are almost blind and don’t see most things and there is lots of spare capacity in their heads and it is filled with things which aren’t connected and are silly, like, “I’m worried that I might have left the gas cooker on.” Chapter 181 (pp. 140-144)
And I went to a bookshop with Mother and I bought a book called Further Maths for A Level and Father told Mrs. Gascoyne that I was going to take A-level further maths next year and she said “OK.”
And I am going to pass it and get an A grade. And in two years’ time I am going to take A-level physics and get an A grade.
And then, when I’ve done that, I am going to go to university in another town. And it doesn’t have to be London because I don’t like London and there are universities in lots of places and not all of them are in big cities. And I can live in a flat with a garden and a proper toilet. And I can take Sandy and my books and my computer.
And then I will get a First Class Honors degree and I will become a scientist.
And I know I can do this because I went to London on my own, and because I solved the mystery of Who Killed Wellington? and I found my mother and I was brave and I wrote a book and that means I can do anything. Chapter 233 (pp. 220-221)