Summary and book reviews of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

by Mark Haddon

The Curious Incident  of the Dog in the Night-Time
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  • First Published:
    Jun 2003, 240 pages
    Paperback:
    May 2004, 240 pages

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Book Summary

'Haddon's portrayal of an emotionally dissociated mind is a superb achievement. He is a wise and bleakly funny writer with rare gifts of empathy.'

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.

2

It was 7 minutes after midnight. The dog was lying on the grass in the middle of the lawn in front of Mrs Shears' house. Its eyes were closed. It looked as if it was running on its side, the way dogs run when they think they are chasing a cat in a dream. But the dog was not running or asleep. The dog was dead. There was a garden fork sticking out of the dog. The points of the fork must have gone all the way through the dog and into the ground because the fork had not fallen over. I decided that the dog was probably killed with the fork because I could not see any other wounds in the dog and I do not think you would stick a garden fork into a dog after it had died for some other reason, like cancer for example, or a road accident. But I could not be certain about this.

I went through Mrs Shears' gate, closing it behind me. I walked onto her lawn and knelt beside the dog. I put my hand on the muzzle of the dog. It was still warm.

The dog was called Wellington. It ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. How do you think this novel bridges the gap between literature for adults and children?

  2. What do you think Haddon's illustrations add to the story and to our understanding of Christopher's character?

  3. Although seemingly ill equipped as the narrator of a book, Christopher's character succeeds in eliciting a wide range of emotions in the reader. How do you think Haddon uses his protagonists voice to touch his audience in such a way?

  4. Discuss the relationship between father and son in the novel. How well do you think Christopher's father copes with his son's condition?

  5. The author has used his extensive knowledge of Asperger's syndrome to allow us to see the world through Christopher's eyes, how do...
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Reviews

Media Reviews

The New York Times — Michiko Kakutani

In choosing to make Christopher his narrator, Mr. Haddon has deliberately created a story defined and limited by his hero's very logical, literal-minded point of view. The result is a minimalistic narrative -- not unlike a Raymond Carver story in its refusal to speculate, impute motive or perform emotional embroidery.

NY Times Sunday Book Review - Jay McInerney

Mark Haddon's stark, funny and original first novel...is presented as a detective story. But it eschews most of the furnishings of high-literary enterprise as well as the conventions of genre, disorienting and reorienting the reader to devastating effect.

Publishers Weekly

... an eye-opening work in a unique and compelling literary voice.

Booklist - Kristine Huntley

Narrated by the unusual and endearing Christopher, who alternates between analyzing mathematical equations and astronomy and contemplating the deaths of Wellington and his mother, the novel is both fresh and inventive.

Library Journal - David Hellman

The novel is being marketed to a YA audience, but strong language and adult situations make this a good title for sophisticated readers of all ages. Highly recommended for all fiction collections.

Kirkus Reviews

A kind of Holden Caulfield who speaks bravely and winningly from inside the sorrows of autism wonderful, simple, easy, moving, and likely to be a smash.

Author Blurb Arthur Golden, author of Memoirs of a Geisha
I have never read anything quite like Mark Haddon's funny and agonizingly honest book, or encountered a narrator more vivid and memorable. I advise you to buy two copies; you wonðt want to lend yours out.

Author Blurb Myla Goldberg, author of Bee Season
The Curious Incident brims with imagination, empathy, and vision -- plus it's a lot of fun to read.

Author Blurb Ian McEwan, author of Atonement and Amsterdam
Mark Haddon's portrayal of an emotionally dissociated mind is a superb achievement. He is a wise and bleakly funny writer with rare gifts of empathy.

Reader Reviews

Nils Franco

Highly Recommended
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime teems with quirky detail and a style of writing so unique you’ll be left with an open mouth in awe of Mark Haddon’s innovative style. I encourage anyone looking for a good read to check out Haddon's ...   Read More

Ashley

Wonderful
This book has opened my eyes to an entirely different world. it makes you stop and think for a second, wow is that what really goes through the minds of people like this. Wonder, just wonderful. the book will make you smile, cry and it might even ...   Read More

CMH

CMH's Thoughts
The book was invigorating. Very fun to read. I recommend it to anyone.

Darcie K

Fascinating
This story is told from a fascinating perspective. It reflects on many adult situations in a wry sense of humor. Sometimes Christopher sees more clearly than those of us without "special needs". This is a sad and humorous story that I highly ...   Read More

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