The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

Mark Haddon's 2003 novel, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is a story about Christopher Boone, an autistic child accused of the murder of his neighbor's dog, Wellington. This is the second most recent novel from Haddon, a British novelist who produced a series of Agent Z novels in the mid-1990s. One of these, Agent Z and the Penguin from Mars, was adapted into a BBC children's television series. Haddon won the Whitebread Book of the Year award in 2003 and the Commonwealth Writers' Prize Overall Best First Book in 2004 for The Curious Incident. While it may not have been his first published work, it was, as he claimed, his first work intended for an adult audience. Haddon has written one book since, entitled A Spot of Bother.

The book, although written by Haddon is intended to come across as Christopher writing the book. It chronicles his journey to discover the true murderer of Wellington, as well as the other adventures that come about because of it. While it may be obvious that Christopher is autistic, it is accurate, seeing that author Mark Haddon spent much of his life working with autistic children. This experience helped him in writing the book, because when referring to a mental disability like autism, it's hard to avoid walking on eggshells. Haddon is very convincing when writing as Christopher, and it adds to the overall ability to convince the reader that it is, in fact, an autistic child writing the book.

Because Christopher is autistic, most of his sentences are very literal and to the point. Rarely will you find a compound or complex sentence. Instead of a natural, conversational flow that is customary in most books nowadays, Haddon uses an incredible amount of voice while also establishing the characters personality like when he explains that Christopher does “not tell lies. Mother used to say that this was because I was a good person. But it is not because I am a good person. It is because I can't tell lies” (19). Not only does he keep his structure and syntax in tact, he develops the character and lets the reader enter a little more into the mind of Christopher Boone.

It is a unique concept to have a work of fiction narrated by the author of the book in a first-person format. For instance, while Haddon is the true author, Christopher, the main character, is the author of the book, for all intents and purposes. It's not a normal path to take, by any means, but Haddon does it seamlessly, and really forces the reader to forget that it's a work of fiction, and that Christopher isn't the true author.

While the reader is led to believe that the book is, in fact, about the investigation into the murder of a dog, it is much, much more. At the start, there's a fairly thorough investigation process, much to the dismay of his father. His thought process is very analytical, and very thorough. When trying to narrow down his suspect list, he does so with careful precision, like when he “thought that Mrs. Shears probably didn't kill Wellington. But whoever had killed him had probably killed him with Mrs. Shears's fork. And the shed was locked. This meant that it was someone who had the key to Mrs. Shears's shed, or that she had left it unlocked, or that she had left her fork lying around in the garden” (31). As a result of the investigation, Christopher finds out he is actually living in a tangled mess of a life, surrounded by infidelity and lies. His home life takes a turn for the worst, and ultimately proves to be detrimental to his relationship with his father. His home life hit an ultimate low when Christopher explains that after he was struck by his father, “I was sitting on the carpet with my back against the wall and there was blood on my right hand and the side of my head was hurting” (83). Christopher goes on to discover more and more things about his family and his life that he didn't know at all before, and goes on travels and adventures that he never knew possible.

The book is quite well written. Haddon does a very good job of convincing us of Christopher's disability and ultimately his narrator status. There's a lot of voice throughout, but it can get a little frustrating at times. There are points, woven in with plot, where Christopher goes off on a tangent here or an aside there that is ultimately distracting and forces the reader to forget about the plot to learn why Christopher doesn't want his food to touch or why he doesn't like the color yellow. It doesn't seem necessary, and, while at times it can serve as a form of comic relief, more times than not it's a hindrance to the overall plot. Haddon does an excellent job throughout, and provides for a very entertaining reading experience. As it turns out, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time isn't just about the murder of a dog after all.





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