Wednesday, April 26, 2006

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

It's raining cats and dogs (well, okay, and hobbits) here this week at Writer Unboxed, so I thought I'd continue that trend today.

It may have been a coincidence that I finished reading The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time and almost immediately went out and bought myself a puppy - or maybe it wasn't. One thing's for certain: that was one fabulous book. I've already done a little research into getting author Mark Haddon for an interview, but his website states he's had to put a hold on that for a while, so I'll chat up his story a little instead.

First, if you're looking for an Unboxed Read, you must, must, must read this book. Haddon hooks from page one and for several reasons. Here's the first line:
It was 7 minutes after midnight.

Okay, it’s nighttime; what’s going on? I'm also curious as to why Haddon wrote “7” as a digit instead of spelling it out. And why does the book start with chapter 2, then move on to 3,5,7 and 11? Is there missing information? Did Haddon tell the story out of sequence ala Niffenegger's Time Traveler's Wife?

As you learn fairly early on, the story is told as it is because that’s how Haddon's 15-year-old autistic protagonist, who loves prime numbers, would write a book. And this book is told exclusively from Christopher's uniquely fascinating POV.

Here’s a good story synopsis from Haddon’s agent’s site:
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is a murder mystery novel like no other. The detective, and narrator, is Christopher Boone. Christopher is fifteen and has Asperger’s, a form of autism. He knows a great deal about maths and very little about human beings. He loves lists, patterns and the truth. He hates the colours yellow and brown and being touched. He has never gone further than the end of the road on his own, but when he finds a neighbour’s dog murdered he sets out on a terrifying journey which will turn his whole world upside down.

I was fascinated by Haddon's adept handling of Christopher's character growth throughout the book. This protagonist doesn't experience emotion in the way "normal" people do. He's very logical, a full-throttled left-brain person, and when life throws something hugely unexpected at him, he becomes mentally agitated and then handles it in the only way he can - analytically. Christopher's high-stakes stew of logic and emotion doesn't necessarily lead him to make the best decisions, but there is no doubt that you will root for him 100% as he journeys to unveil truth and find a safe haven for himself and his pet.

Curious Incident has been praised high and low by everyone - The New York Times, The New Yorker, Chicago Tribune, Washington Post, Newsday and others. It was named the Whitbread Book of the Year and was named a New York Times Notable Book. It's been called "flawlessly imagined," "heartbreaking and inspiring," "a triumph of emphathy," "a superb achievement," "gloriously eccentric and wonderfully intelligent," "clever and observant," "brilliant...very moving," "smart, honest and wrenching," "fierce and ingenious."

It really is all of that and more.

I’m not surprised that Hollywood came a-knocking for rights to this story, though I’m skeptical as to how it’ll turn out, even with Harry Potter screenwriter Steve Kloves on the job. Will Kloves be able to put us in Christopher's POV properly? Will he wring empathy from us the way Haddon did so well? If done right, this story could be the next Academy Award winner. It’s that good.

Now go and read the book!


Blogger Melly said...

Oh gosh, I'm the first to comment which makes it worse because I'm about to say that I'm sorry, but my feelings weren't at all similar to yours and to all those who praised the book.
Reasons? Maybe the ease of reading was too annerving, or maybe the emotional disabilities of the protagonist came forth too much for my liking. Just didn't do it for me...

3:13 PM  
Blogger Milady Insanity said...


I loved this book too.

12:27 AM  
Blogger Cavan said...

I enjoyed the book, but not nearly as much as I thought I would after reading all of the glowing reviews.

Haddon's handling of the main character was fantastic, but aside from that I thought the story just kind of drifted by with little consequence. Overall, I'd rate it a decent read, but not a great one.

11:35 PM  
Blogger Therese Walsh said...

Love, hate or feel ambivalent about it, I'm just glad to see some comments!

You know Hollywood will do *something* to this story. It'll be interesting--for better or worse--to see what sort of treatment they give the story.

9:24 AM  

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