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

2003. Recorded Books. 5 discs (6 hours and 15 minutes)

Read by Jeff Woodman.

From: the public library

In a nutshell:

As a teenager with autism, Christopher does not see world the way that most others do.   His brain does not process and interpret other people’s expressions and tones, making communication with others fraught with anxiety.  Things like crowded, noisy places upset him greatly and he reacts strongly if touched.  He loves to work at math and to be alone, with his rat Toby as company.

When a neighbor’s dog is found dead with a garden fork stuck through it, however, Christopher gets out of his comfort zone to find out who killed the dog.  His investigation brings about unexpected revelations.

Review:

I felt mostly ambivalent about reading this bestselling book, but when I was quickly scanning the audiobook shelf at the library, the familiarity of the title jumped out at me.   I’m definitely glad I checked it out.

Christopher Boone is certainly an unusual protagonist, as he is so emotionally detached from others.  He can comes across as self-absorbed and selfish and it’s hard to get used to that.  Even as the story escalated, I still kept expecting Christopher to comprehend certain situations that he couldn’t, thinking why can’t he see what this person is really saying?  how can he not know that this is dangerous?  why doesn’t he just realize such and such?  and so on.

I had ingrained expectations for a certain kind of emotional resolution, but with this character that was impossible.  This is not to say I was disappointed:  one of the strengths of the book lies in the way it dodges the feel-good and expected routes.

As much as I appreciated these aspects of the book, what truly sucked me in was the relationship between Christopher and his father.  It is clear that his father loves Christopher, but Christopher does not seem to truly realize this, much less reciprocate in like degree.  Certainly Mr. Boone is flawed but this made his often-desperate attempts to reach Christopher even more heartbreaking.  This emotional intensity helped balance out some of the more unbelievable aspects, such as this one somewhat elaborate error for which Mr. Boone is responsible.   (Hopefully those who have read it know which mistake I’m referring to.)  The fallout of the error was gripping, even if the error and the motivation of it were harder to swallow.

Regarding the audio book experience, Jeff Woodman did an excellent job of capturing Christopher’s voice.  I can still remember his cadence and it’s been a few weeks since I completed it.  I knew the book had illustrations and I flipped through a print copy after finishing the audiobook, but I didn’t feel like I was missing out when I was listening to The Curious Incident.  So if you’re interested in reading the book, you would be safe with either the print version or the audio-book.

What Others have Said:

The Book Lady’s Blog – “In the way that Christopher takes everything literally and approaches life with a mindset that is both incredibly concrete and remarkably abstract, we are able to see the world and social conventions through the eyes of an outsider, and we are invited to think about them in a new way. This is a tricky feat to pull off, and Haddon makes it look easy.”

Maw Books – “To be taken into the mind of an autistic child was interesting and well worth the read to try to understand the world in which an autistic child lives. I enjoy books which leave me with empathy and understanding.”

Reading Matters – “The great beauty of this lovely book is not just the narrator’s unique voice, it is Haddon’s careful balance between bleak comedy and great sadness.”

Reading with Tequila – “With the story switching gears so unexpectedly, it felt as though the book was in fact two separate stories (featuring common characters) pasted together to create a book. It felt off, like something just wasn’t fitting properly.”

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6 Comments

Filed under Book Review

6 responses to “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon

  1. I liked reading the print version of this book, because the illustrations felt like such an important part of Christopher’s thoughts. But yeah, I don’t think not having them would make the hugest difference to understanding the book. The relationship between Christopher and his parents is really touching.

    • You are not the first to mention the importance of the illustrations. Flipping through the book’s illustrations after completing the audio version didn’t do much for me – it probably would be better to experience the illustrations during the process of reading as opposed to viewing them all together and after the fact.

  2. I read this a long time ago, but think I should re-read it. My Mum and my oldest son have Aspergers (a type of autism) and your problems with the book are almost all to do with the charateristics of autism. People with autism struggle with social relationships. One of the hardest thing I have to deal with is that lack of love. They are self centred and selfish, so I’m pleased that you managed to get that from the book. I wish more people would read books like this so they can come to understand the condition.

    • Thanks for sharing from your personal experience with people who have autism. One of the things I was wondering about the book was how accurate it was in depicting someone with autism.

      I just want to be quick and say that Christopher’s self-centered and selfish nature was not a problem – that is, not a criticism I have with the book. I liked how it challenged me in this respect.

      Your last sentence is so true. I think one of the greatest things books can give to us is a greater capacity for empathy.

  3. Thanks for mentioning the illustrations weren’t vital. I also listened to the audio and didn’t know about the illos until much later. I could now flip through and look at them, but I don’t remember the book well enough since it’s been 3 years. I’m glad I didn’t miss out on as much as I thought! I’m still annoyed the audiobook publisher didn’t include them like linernotes or something.

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