Review: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-timeMost people define a murder as the act of someone taking another person’s life. But does this apply exclusively to people? Not if your name is Christopher, you’re 15 and you’re suffering from Asperger’s syndrome. If this is the case, killing a dog called Wellington by using a garden fork still qualifies as murder. And Christopher has to find out who did it. He doesn’t like novels, because they are not true, but he likes detective stories, because they use logic. So he is going to write a detective story while working out who killed Wellington, the dog.

Reading this book reminded me of a biography I’d read, Born on a Blue Day, which is a true story of a savant, Daniel Tammet, who shares the same condition as the fictional Cristopher in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time.

Like Daniel, Christopher is truly passionate about maths and finds happiness in juggling numbers in his head. His life goals are very straightforward: Pass A level in Maths with an A, which is something nobody has ever done in his school, then take A levels in Physics and Chemistry and go to university. But before all that, he has to find out who murdered his neighbour’s dog.

The narrative perspective is what makes The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time most interesting to the reader, offering an insight into the mind of a genius who otherwise lacks most social skills and finds it impossible to function according to the norms. Christopher hates being around people and the only place he ever goes to apart from school is the corner shop next to his house. He hates the colours yellow and brown, but loves the colour red, refuses to eat things on a plate if they have touched each other or doesn’t eat in restaurants either.

Christopher is adorable as a character because being apart from ‘normal’ society makes him naively honest. He can never tell a lie and he can never break a promise. He lives with his dad and thinks that his mom died because of a heart-attack – that’s what his father told him, and his father never lies. He reads science magazines and dreams of becoming an astronaut. And now he writes this book about how he would find out who was cruel enough to murder a dog. His father does not like his detective game. Nonetheless, Christopher goes on with his plan and risks even talking to strangers in order to find some clues.

curious

Things happen and one day Christopher goes into his father’s bedroom to find a bunch of letters addressed to him and signed by his mother. Then he realizes that his mother never actually died, but had only left his father. When confronted with the reality of the situation, his father confesses that his mother is alive and furthermore, that it was him who had killed Wellington, the dog.

Christopher has a hard time understanding affection (he does not like being hugged or merely touched), but he feels fear quite often. And he is not able to make complex connections related to the human behaviour. He can connect thousands of prime numbers, but he cannot connect events and emotions which determine people to make mistakes. Consequently, killing a dog makes his father a murderer, and if he killed a dog, he could well kill him.

curious2He decides that he has to go to London and live with his mother, and this is not an easy task for someone whose whole universe had been Swindon, its school, and the local corner-shop. Going through a serious of adventures which prove how difficult it is to deal with social anxiety and how useful maths was in the process, he gets to London, but is later forced to move back to Swindon with his mother because her new lover does not approve of him being there.

The book makes you feel like Christopher’s brother or real-life counter-part. You always want him to succeed and while reading you almost find yourself cheering, ‘come on Chris, you can find the train station, come on, you will get to London…’

And that’s the beauty of it all. As a reader, you know he’s bright in Maths. And you know he’s going to get that A at the A levels and you admire him for his hard-work and commitment. There are many obstacles along the way. But you know he will succeed and you can look into his future at the end of the novel. He’s going to be a scientist. Because he’s good enough to do it and he was brave enough to find out who had committed a murder and brave enough to go to London on his own.

And in the end, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time is so well written that it makes you feel brave yourself…

(RECENZIE SCRISĂ DE RĂZVAN ANTON, A APĂRUT INIȚIAL PE TEORIILE UNUI BLOGGER)

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