The Curious Incident of The Dog in the Night-Time
By Mark Haddon
Paperback: 226 pages
Publisher: Vintage (May 18, 2004)
In this novel, Christopher John Francis Boone is fifteen years old. He is autistic and his world is very ordered. As the blurb on the back cover of the book says, ‘he knows all the countries of the world and their capitals and every prime number up to 7,0507. He relates well to animals but has no understanding of human emotions. He cannot stand to be touched. He detests the color yellow.’ One day, however, the neighbour’s dog, Wellington, is found dead. Christopher sets out to solve this murder. He is encouraged to do so by one person only and that is his social worker, Siobhan.
For me, this novel is a cross between a murder-mystery novel and a literary one. For one, the plot of this story is very much in the style of a whodunit – throughout, the reader is kept guessing about the answer to the question, “Who murdered this dog?” All the clues are placed in the appropriate places in the novel, the characters are defined and dialogue genuine. And yet, the style of writing is so unique: everything happens in the present moment. It is as if this boy, Christopher, is living for the moment; if one were to imitate Echkart Tolle teachings, it can be said that Christopher epitomises the art of living in the now.
Sometimes, reading a book for pleasure does not really reveal anything new to the reader – the information shared is old but the joy comes from the manner in which the author shares that information. In this book, the reader is bound to learn things that are new and many times, wise truths are inserted in appropriate places. For instance, on page 69 or so, there is the story about Marilyn vos Savant, the person with the highest IQ in the world, who participates in a game show. She gives her answer to questions asked and is ridiculed. Christopher not only agrees with her answer but gives a very valid explanation of how she would have reached her answer. Then, he adds this: ‘And this shows that intuition can sometimes get things wrong. And intuition is what people use in life to make decisions. But logic can help you work out the right answer.’
Many times, in literary novels, the author’s mastery of language is praised in that though the sentences are complex, the messages they convey are clear and the overall impression is one of beauty. In this book, however, it is the exact opposite. The language is simple. This simplicity alone is not what makes this book impressive but that it is maintained throughout the novel; and, therein lies the beauty of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. An excellent read!
3 July 2008