Monday, September 8, 2008

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

Book Description:
Christopher John Francis Boone knows all the countries of the world and their capitals and every prime number up to 7,057. He relates well to animals but has no understanding of human emotions. He cannot stand to be touched. Although gifted with a superbly logical brain, Christopher is autistic. Everyday interactions and admonishments have little meaning for him. Routine, order and predictability shelter him from the messy, wider world. Then, at fifteen, Christopher's carefully constructed world falls apart when he finds his neighbor's dog, Wellington, impaled on a garden fork, and he is initially blamed for the killing.

Christopher decides that he will track down the real killer and turns to his favorite fictional character, the impeccably logical Sherlock Holmes, for inspiration. But the investigation leads him down some unexpected paths and ultimately brings him face to face with the dissolution of his parents’marriage. As he tries to deal with the crisis within his own family, we are drawn into the workings of Christopher's mind.

And herein lies the key to the brilliance of Mark Haddon’s choice of narrator: The most wrenching of emotional moments are chronicled by a boy who cannot fathom emotion. The effect is dazzling, making for a novel that is deeply funny, poignant, and fascinating in its portrayal of a person whose curse and blessing is a mind that perceives the world literally.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is one of the freshest debuts in years: a comedy, a heartbreaker, a mystery story, a novel of exceptional literary merit that is great fun to read.

I loved this book! I really enjoyed it and thought it was excellent. At times I was really moved by it and got teary-eyed. Such a unique perspective of an autistic boy, his broken family, life's lessons and coping and dealing with them. A short read, but very well done and original. I decided to read it because my 14 year old son had to read it for his summer reading assignment. He only finished it yesterday and now I'm dying to discuss it with him.

I agree with the above description of the author, he takes some really heavy emotional moments and is able to write about them from Christopher's perspective - Christopher who cannot show or feel emotion - and it's amazing. I don't want to give away any spoilers, but a culmination of events that lead to his reading letters from his mother and then a one-sided conversation with his father is very moving. Despite Christopher's handicap, he manages to succeed in what he sets out to do, whether it's taking his maths A-levels or going to London on a train on his own. He manages! You get the sense that Christopher is going to be okay. He has challenges, but he's a smart kid and he'll adjust and be a great scientist or mathematician one day. You can't help but admire him, and at the same time want to hug him - but he doesn't like to be hugged! Having a son so close to his age, who has his own everyday ups and downs and challenges, I really felt for his parents and could relate to them. You love your children so much. Ironically, even though he does a despicable thing, I really felt sorry for his father more than his mother. It all starts with the death of Wellington the dog, but opens up a whole can of worms for Christopher and the relative peace in his world.

If you are at all interested in special needs kids or forms of autism and Asperger's Syndrome, this is a must read. A very short book, it took me less than a day to read. A thoughtful and memorable read.


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