25 Women to Read Before You Die

Wednesday, July 30th, 2003


The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

by Mark Haddon

The Boy Detective

A review by Adrienne Miller

In The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Mark Haddon pulls a seemingly impossible stunt: He's written a wrenching, ebullient, and wonderfully funny novel narrated by a character who can't express, or comprehend, emotion. Christopher Boone is a mathematically gifted, animal-loving autistic fifteen-year-old who hates: 1) being touched, 2) the colors yellow and brown, 3) and having different foods on his plate come into contact. He's found his neighbor's dog, a poodle named Wellington, dead in the neighbor's yard, pierced on a pitchfork. Much to his father's displeasure, Christopher becomes determined to uncover Wellington's killer. In the chronicles of his detective mission -- which he logs in a journal -- Christopher discovers secrets about his father, and the mother he's been told is dead. (I wonder if the way in which the big revelations are exposed are a little too The Color Purpleish for comfort, but this probably isn't a big deal.) It is a very tricky thing to write a book in which the reader knows both more and less than such an occluded narrator, but Haddon triumphs: Christopher's flawed but loving parents are probably more heartbreaking seen through the prism of their child's peculiar consciousness. Haddon masterfully brings the weird brilliance of the autistic mind to life, and subtly poses questions about the nature of the care given to people with the condition. Christopher attends a school with children so severely disabled that one cannot help but wonder, despite his capable teachers, if he is really in the right place. This very exciting first novel announces is debut of a major talent. Read it.

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