Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Book Review 35. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
Book: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
Author: Mark Haddon
Genre: Young Adult Mystery
Pages: 226
Published: May 18th, 2004

Synopsis: 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. And he detests the color yellow.
Although gifted with a superbly logical brain, for fifteen-year-old Christopher everyday interactions and admonishments have little meaning. He lives on patterns, rules, and a diagram kept in his pocket. Then one day, a neighbor's dog, Wellington, is killed and his carefully constructive universe is threatened. Christopher sets out to solve the murder in the style of his favourite (logical) detective, Sherlock Holmes. What follows makes for a novel that is funny, poignant and fascinating in its portrayal of a person whose curse and blessing are a mind that perceives the world entirely literally.

★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

“I think prime numbers are like life. They are very logical but you could never work out the rules, even if you spent all your time thinking about them” 

When I was in the bookstore with my friends, debating whether or not to purchase this novel, I asked the two of my friends who had read it their opinions. One said it was heartbreaking and guaranteed it would make me cry. The other said it was a meh book that didn't mesh with her reading style. I bought it, curious, and after much consideration I'd say my opinion fell square in the middle.

So this novel is about Christopher, a 15-year-old boy who is extremely bright when numbers and puzzles, but mentally unable to understand other's emotions and human nature. He lives in a small town in England with his father. It's just been the two of them since Christopher's mother died a few years ago from a heart attack. One day when their neighbor's dog is brutally killed with a garden fork, Christopher decides to take a page from Sherlock Holmes (one of his favorite characters) and uncover who killed him.

This book did a good job narrating the story from the point of view of someone with a mental handicap. Although it's never explicitly explained what Christopher has, readers can see he has amazing mathematical skills but feels disconnected from human interactions (and from this, I felt it safe to assume he had Asperger's, autism, or a mix of the two). The novel is actually supposed to be read as Christopher's writings, kind of like a diary. The book really helped me appreciate how people who are different can still be very intelligent and kind regardless. Since it's from his point of view, you really see firsthand how he sees the world, and can see the logic behind his reactions.
There were actually a few times that, because of my different way of thinking, I came to a conclusion before Christopher. Always a fun treat in a mystery novel.

Handsdown my favorite part of the story was when Christopher trailed off from the story to explain a math problem or a book to the reader. He always drew little doodles to go along with it, and the book was filled with little maps and charts to help the reader see what he saw. (Here's an example of the map and chart respectively)

Reading Christopher explain the plot of a Sherlock Holmes novel or just how the Monty Hill problem felt so much like a conversation directly to him, and they were just brief enough to not take away from the story but just long enough to satisfy the reader with an explanation. They always tied into the story somehow or another anyway.

The plot was really unpredictable, and certain revelations really took me back. Can't go in any deeper, since this in a non-spoiler review.

The reason the book only got 4 stars instead of 5 however was the fact that, as quirky as it was, there wasn't much adventure to it. It was a very realistic novel (which in hindsight makes sense), but I was expecting Christopher to chase down the murderer on foot and search all of England for clues. Instead, he kind of stumbles upon answers and spends most of the book in the safety of his home. I understand that this is more a personal complaint.

All-in-all, I liked the book but didn't love it. It got to the point that I loved Christopher's diagrams and short stories more than I liked his actual story. It didn't make me cry like my friend promised, but I'd still recommend it. As quite a stylized read, you might love it or hate it, but you won't know until you pick it up.

(Also, each chapter was labelled with a prime number, gong 2,3,5,7, etc, which I found really cool. Christopher goes on and on about his love of prime numbers, so it was kind of a cute little addition.)

Sorry it's been so long since my last review, but I've been in a reading slump for the past 2 months.


Want another opinion? Here are some other reviews for The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (may contain spoilers):
Fearless Protagonist
Write Out Loud
Commas and Ampersands

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