Monday, March 3, 2014

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

The Curious Incident of The Dog in the Night-Time
Mark Haddon
Series: N/A
Genre: Mystery, Young Adult, Contemporary
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Word Rating: Breathtakingly Simple and Realistic
On Goodreads

I first read The Curious Incident for AP Lang way back in the high school days (last year) and I loved it. I was recently gifted another copy as a birthday present (she was mad I read it and thereby would understand her clever inscription, you know how it goes). And so came this review (it will be brief). Of this book (that is indeed brief). That only ever gets better.

The very first association I have when this novel crosses my mind is the voice of the main character, Christopher. I don't know what kind of sorcery or in depth study Mark Haddon had to do to delve into Christopher's alternate vantage point (namely Asperger's Syndrome) and write this book. Actually, I do. He works with autistic children, and it bloody pays off.

It's absolutely fascinating not only to have the raw clarity of Christopher's thoughts and actions, completely devoid of figurative stretching, but to constantly forget that Christopher is not real. I am reminded of the honesty and simplicity of Ocean at the End of The Lane by Neil Gaiman and Mortality by Christopher Hitchens.
'And this is why I like timetables because they make sure you don't get lost in time.' (Haddon, 195)
Honestly, you could crack open the book to any page and in it you will find something striking that gives you insight into Christopher, because first and foremost, this is a book about Christopher, about how he sees the world. And it's fascinating, there is such a wealth of information in this novel to be explored and though it's written simplistically, it's hard to grasp all at once. Getting into Christopher's head is incredibly difficult, as in the beginning he demonstrates that he recognizes and understands emotions differently than other people. But there's a bit of Christopher in everyone and it comes out.

Who doesn't appreciate the relateability of:
'On the fifth day, which was a Sunday, it rained very hard, I like when it rains hard. It sounds like white noise everywhere, which is like silence but not empty.' (103)
Or the depth behind:
'And when I am in a new place, because I see everything, it is like when a computer is doing too many things at the same time and the central processor unit is blocked up and there isn’t any space left to think about other things. And when I am in a new place and there are lots of people there it is even harder because people are not like cows and flowers and grass and they can talk to you and do things that you don’t expect, so you have to notice everything that is in the place . . . ' (143-144)
I just love love love Christopher and the dynamic that occurs with his character. If only slight, Christopher does shift and it's a hard change and it displaces something within any reader who can empathize with him and heck, what else is writing about?

Of course, there is the clever construction of the book. The chapters are in prime numbers, the bolding of terms and the listing and the graphs make the math come to life. The plot is just gorgeous.

I've heard people complain about the simplicity and predictability of the plot and that 'it's not even a mystery it's just a bunch of maths' I'm like

If you want that kind of book go read friggin Sherlock Holmes. The Curious Incident is not unique (see Virgina Woolf) in making its plot incidental, but it is rare in that everything seems to be centered around Christopher's analysis of the world. Why? Because it's so damn cool it makes a mystery out of a dead dog, it makes walking past the end of the road a bloody war, it makes math simple and people complex, all for people who might not think this way, the 'normals'. And you know what? Christopher does it. He makes the journey, and he wins.

Why are we not preaching this book from rooftops?

As a wise Mr. Gump once said, 'And that's all I have to say about that.'

- Marlon

Tell me how much you love maths!
Let us know in the comments!

1 comment:

  1. Great review - I've read varying amounts of criticism of this book and I can't ever really understand it. It is so straight-forward, smart, and relevant that it feels almost impossible to pick major holes. I've read some more in-depth responses to the portrayal of a (presumed) autistic character, but to beat up on it over bits to do with the mystery element? Crazy. You're spot on.

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