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Terrific, unique and thrilling to read!

  • Mar 28, 2005
  • by
This is a wonderfully entertaining and touching and sometimes frustrating book. What first attracted me to it was the basic premise...a mystery (the "murder" of a neighbor's dog) investigated by an autistic boy...told through the eyes of the boy himself. Christopher, our narrator, is as unlikely a hero as you're going to encounter in a piece of fiction that isn't science fiction or fantasy based.

Apparently Mark Haddon worked with autistic people for awhile, and his knowledge of their traits clearly informs the book. It is a novel with a hero that is incapable of showing empathy or even sympathy for others. He is totally self-involved and pretty well insulated. Yet his unique humanity shines through. What's also terrific in Haddon's approach is that while Christopher cannot really tell us what other people are thinking or feeling...we empathize with them anyway. Whole pages of dialogue are given without any inkling from the narrator as to what tone of voice people are using, what their faces are showing (he doesn't like to even look at people's faces), etc...yet the crispness of the dialogue leaves no doubt. We see through Christopher's blindness to the "normal" people beyond. Yet we also buy into Christopher's world-view pretty easily, and we actually have a basic sense of how he needs to cope.

For example, when people try to touch Christopher, he may begin screaming or banging his head on the ground. Imagine how embarrassing and frustrating this must be for his parents, how annoying or startling for those around him! We can feel, as a "normal" person, that Christopher is frustrating kid. Yet from Christopher we also know that he doesn't like to be touched, it's too much stimulus and by screaming or groaning or banging, he finds some escape. And sometimes that escape can't stop because he doesn't dare risk stopping to see if he's no longer being touched, only to discover that he IS still being touched. Hence, the screaming goes on. In Christopher's matter-of-fact manner, we see how he isn't really doing anything "wrong."

The book really doesn't turn into much of a mystery about the death of a dog. It's full of amusing or inciteful digressions...as Christopher shows us how he can't understand things like facial expressions, but is brilliant at turning everyday problems into mathematical problems. I suspect he may be a "higher functioning" autistic person than most or many, but he has to be in order to write the book in the first place.

Towards the later part of the book, Christopher takes an enormously brave journey, venturing into a world he knows virtually nothing about. You can feel the fear in him, the isolation and the bravery. And yes, even some pride. It's a wrenching and dramatic final act, and at this point the book is pretty much impossible to put down.

The true story behind the story is the relationship of Christopher to his father, and to a few other key people in his life. And when the end of the book comes, we find that we can actually be moved to tears by the events that have taken place. It's a riveting and unique book. There are a few casual bad words or phrases in the book (mostly Christopher seeing graffiti and reporting it to us) and thus I wouldn't recommend it for anyone under, say 15 or so...but I think it's brief enough, fast-paced enough, and just well-written and entertaining enough to be for almost anyone who enjoys reading.

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More The Curious Incident of the Do... reviews
review by . June 28, 2010
I read this book because of the eyecatching cover and it completely swept me up! The narrator of this book is a young boy, Christopher John Francis Boone, who has Asperger syndrome. He is brilliant at mathematics and he lives with his father because his mother has died some years prior. The story is set up to be a sort of mystery novel when Christopher discovers his neighbor's dog killed in the yard. He decides to investigate the death and this book is a documentation of his thoughts and investigation. &n …
review by . June 24, 2010
A real page turner! I read this book in one day. It is an easy fast-paced read. One of the most unique and eccentric books ever. There is nothing I could think of to compare it to. Gives a great deal of insight to mental illness and human emotion while the main character lacks that quality. It was also very funny. I would recommend this book to just about anyone.            
Quick Tip by . July 19, 2010
I actually judged this book by the cover, and doubted it would be of any interest. After being forced to read it by a friend, I must say this is definitely a book worth reading!
Quick Tip by . July 02, 2010
Fascinating! Step into the mind of a high-functioning autistic boy whose discovery of a simple mystery leads to an adventure of logic, mistrust, and desperate flight. The narrative is astonishingly intricate. Utterly fascinating.
Quick Tip by . May 19, 2010
Well written from the autistic child's point of view.
review by . September 18, 2009
This is one of the most original and spellbinding novels I've read in years. It is written from a perspective of an autistic teenage boy in an incredibly convincing way. The book starts as a murder-mystery, and although the murder of a dog may not sound like the most pressing crime that you need to read about, the reader is quickly drawn into the story. What makes the whole situation unique is precisely the autistic perspective of the narrator. The familiar world that we all take for granted is …
review by . March 12, 2009
Mark Haddon has written a rather clever novel from the point of view of a 15-year old autistic child - Christopher Haddon. If we take as a given that this is an accurate portrayal of the way an autistic person's mind works, it explains and lends empathy to those with autism. We can see how Christopher's actions, to him, seem entirely logical and normal, whereas to those he interacts with they seem bizarre and abnormal (excepting his father and teachers).     The story unfolds …
review by . February 10, 2006
Having worked with children with autism/Asperger's for years, I found Curious Incident curious indeed. Written from the point of view of a teenager, the narrative provides wonderful insight into the cognitive processes of a person with this type of disability. As well as being a compelling detective story, Incident brings home the idea that there are different versions of reality, depending upon who's doing the experiencing. It beautifully illustrated the mutual misunderstanding and frustration …
review by . February 21, 2005
I had heard a lot of good things about the book The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time by Mark Haddon. After waiting for some time for it to come in at the library, I finally got the chance to read it. It's definitely different and will make you adjust your reality...    Christopher Boone is an autistic child who lives with his father in a small town in England. When the neighbor's dog is found killed, Boone decides that he should do some investigating to figure out …
review by . December 29, 2004
Mark Haddon has written a rather clever novel from the point of view of a 15-year old autistic child - Christopher Haddon. If we take as a given that this is an accurate portrayal of the way an autistic person's mind works, it explains and lends empathy to those with autism. We can see how Christopher's actions, to him, seem entirely logical and normal, whereas to those he interacts with they seem bizarre and abnormal (excepting his father and teachers).     The story unfolds …
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I've got my own site, www.afilmcritic.com, on which I'm posting my reviews. I am 46 years old, married 25 years, two kids (23 & 18) and currently work in accounting/finance. I spent 15 years … more
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About this book


Mark Haddon's bitterly funny debut novel,The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, is a murder mystery of sorts--one told by an autistic version of Adrian Mole. Fifteen-year-old Christopher John Francis Boone is mathematically gifted and socially hopeless, raised in a working-class home by parents who can barely cope with their child's quirks. He takes everything that he sees (or is told) at face value, and is unable to sort out the strange behavior of his elders and peers.

Late one night, Christopher comes across his neighbor's poodle, Wellington, impaled on a garden fork. Wellington's owner finds him cradling her dead dog in his arms, and has him arrested. After spending a night in jail, Christopher resolves--against the objection of his father and neighbors--to discover just who has murdered Wellington. He is encouraged by Siobhan, a social worker at his school, to write a book about his investigations, and the result--quirkily illustrated, with each chapter given its own prime number--is The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.


Haddon's novel is a startling performance. This is the sort of book that could turn condescending, or exploitative, or overly sentimental, or grossly tasteless very easily, but Haddon navigates those dangers with a sureness of touch that is extremely rare among first-time novelists. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is original, clever, and genuinely moving: this one is a must-read. ...

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ISBN-10: 1400032717
ISBN-13: 978-1400032716
Author: Mark Haddon
Genre: Literature & Fiction
Publisher: Vintage
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