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

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[Jake Borrett | Contributing Writer]


“I can do anything.”

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time won the 2003 Whitbread Book Award for Best Novel and Book of the Year. It was later adapted into a highly successful play by The National Theatre; the production has since won seven Olivier Awards including Best Play in 2013. It even appears on the English Literature reading syllabus at University of Hertfordshire. Now that is an excellent achievement.

I believe that Mark Haddon has written an incredible young adult novel, which not only attempts to question our way of thinking about the world, but also how we perceive ourselves. I first read this novel at secondary school, aged eleven, when I had very little interest in reading. It engaged me instantly. It became the novel that inspired my love for literature. I now hope that Haddon’s work goes on to inspire others.  

The novel is narrated in the first-person by Christopher John Francis Boone, a fifteen-year-old boy with a specific learning condition. The early stages of the novel deal with a murder-mystery; the mysterious death of Wellington, a neighbour’s pet poodle. However, it later develops into a story about family. Christopher takes a train journey from Swindon to London that serves not only as a way of connecting with the unfamiliar world, but as a way of uncovering the secrets his father has been keeping from him.

There has been much discussion as to whether The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time focuses on the representation of disability. Whilst Christopher may have a specific learning condition, it is not directly referred to. In his article “Aspergers & Autism”, Haddon comments: “Curious Incident is not a book about Asperger’s… if anything it’s a novel about difference, about being an outsider, about seeing the world in a surprisingly and revealing way.”

The notions of being an “outsider” and revealing the world through a “surprisingly and revealing way” are brilliantly executed. Christopher’s drawings of emotions, scientific diagrams, and mathematical formulas alongside his claim “My memory is like a film,” all provide unique ways of viewing the world. There is also emphasis on what Christopher can do – “I know…every prime number up to 7, 507” –  over what he cannot do. This is very pleasing to see. I have dyspraxia and I admire Haddon for placing emphasis on Christopher’s abilities, ambitions and achievements over his failures and confinements. I would like to think that other novels dealing with the sensitive area of disability are encouraged by the approach Haddon takes.

In my opinion, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time has achieved critical acclaim because the novel teaches us about ourselves. Christopher’s concluding claim: “I can do anything,” invites us to recognise our own strengths and build upon them in order to achieve our dreams. It is for this reason that Haddon’s novel will remain one of my favourites and hopefully will become a timeless read for generations to come.

Have you read this brilliant novel by Mark Haddon? What did you think? Tweet us @TridentMediaUK

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