Title: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime
Author: Mark Haddon
Review Summary: The writing style of this book was unique and fascinating, but the plot felt incomplete.
Although Christopher has an incredible memory for factual information, he has a hard time understanding human emotions. He’s smart and logical, but also very sheltered. When he discovers that his neighbor’s dog has been killed, he decides to emulate his favorite detective, Sherlock Holmes, and try to find out who is responsible. In order to investigate, Christopher will have to do things outside his comfort zone and what he learns may be even more frightening.
I loved the way this book was written. Although I don’t know if this an accurate portrayal of Asperger’s, (and there seem to be knowledgeable people who think it isn’t) I do know that the author did a great job creating a character with a unique and consistent voice. Like world-building, a character’s personality, mental abilities, and quirks should be internally consistent. That’s definitely achieved here. It’s clear within the first few pages that Christopher is very concerned with precision and facts and that he has emotions, but other people’s emotions escape him. He has his own dreams and aspirations, likes and dislikes. He speaks in a straightforward, unadorned way that fits the way his character is portrayed. I enjoyed both his philosophical observations and the math and science topics which he explains within the narrative.
The plot didn’t work as well for me. It was a bit unbelievable, but my biggest problem was the incomplete ending. I finished the story feeling like the author wanted us to believe we’d gotten a happy ending. While some of the conflict in the story was resolved, I was still very concerned about Christopher’s well-being. I realize having a child like Christopher presents unusual challenges for parents, but Christopher’s parents were unacceptably terrible at taking care of him. I hope that in real life, the government takes a greater interest in children’s safety than it does in this book. I think an ending like this would have been alright if I felt the author were intentionally making a point about the care available for children with mental health issues. Instead, I felt like he glossed over what could have been the most valuable part of the book.
I really remember liking this one, but I don’t remember the ending leaving me wanting. It may have, but a lot of books do that to me and I just assumed it was a style choice.
I do think I’m a bit more annoyed by incomplete endings than a lot of people. I like my endings neat and tidy 🙂
Leah @ Books Speak Volumes
I remember liking this one, but I read it probably about 8 years ago, so I don’t remember a whole lot about it.
Yeah, this is a book which has been around for a while! I probably would have forgotten to pick it up if it hadn’t been my book club’s read last month.
Andi @ Estella's Revenge
This one was just “meh” for me from an enjoyment perspective. However, I taught it to a university class and picking it apart was MUCH more fun!
That does sounds like it would be fun. It seems like the unusual narrative style could give you a lot to think about.
Charlene @ Bookish Whimsy
I’m echoing the previous commenters with I read this a while ago but I don’t remember it too well either – so I suppose that means it wasn’t that great for me. It’s too bad this wasn’t a good read overall for you, but at least the author created a great main character.
I’m definitely late to the party on this one 🙂 I’m not sure that I remember even the really good books from before I started blogging very well, but since I’ve started writing about books, I feel like they stick with me a lot better.
I read this a long time ago. I don’t recall the ending, just that I did not like the book. I didn’t like the narration…honestly, it was annoying. And yes, I feel bad saying that.
I don’t think you should feel bad about it! It’s not like the narrator is a real person and from the sounds of things, he might not be much like any real person either.
Katie @ Words for Worms
I enjoyed this when I listened to the audio book, but I didn’t realize how much backlash this book had gotten from the Aspberger’s community. It kind of taints my memory of the book…
It made me like the book less too. I think fiction can be surprisingly valuable way to learn about the real world and other people’s experiences if the author bothers to do their research, but it doesn’t seem like that’s the case here.
Allison @ The Book Wheel
I read this book a long time ago and don’t remember much about it, but I do remember liking/not loving it. If I had to guess, it was for similar reasons.
Yep, that’s how I’d categorize this one too. It was enjoyable, but I’d heard pretty good things about it and expected more.
I loved The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime at the time I read it (which was years ago so the details are a bit fuzzy…) so I’m happy to hear that you liked it, even if you didn’t love it…
Thanks Cayce 🙂 Even though I wasn’t blown away, this was definitely a book I had fun reading.
I really like this book. Like you, I’m not sure whether Christopher’s symptoms are accurately portrayed, but I appreciate his unique voice–he is sympathetic, though not the type of protagonist readers are used to.
The ending also left me feel a little wanting. I felt that the author wanted it to feel hopeful, but I need something more conclusive to make me think everything will turn out all right. In fact, my need for more conclusiveness in my endings is one of the reasons I enjoy reading YA and MG books more than I do adult ones. YA and MG books tend not to have a problem with unambiguous happy endings whereas adult novels seem to feel happiness is not entirely realistic for some reason, or at least not artistic.
I like conclusive endings too and while I’ve found many adult books with happy endings, I’ve had a run of them lately with ambiguous but optimistic endings. They’re often very literary and beautiful and emotional, so I find the ambiguous endings something of a cop out. It’s as though the author just couldn’t write an ending that had the same emotional impact as the rest of the book, so they’re leaving it up to your imagination.
Interesting point about the ending and the plot generally. I suspect the government / care services do considerably less than we’d hope in a lot of cases, but I also don’t think Christopher’s parents are too bad. Not great, but quite human. I found the mum in particular to be ill-equipped to deal with Christopher a lot of the time, but generally it felt like they were people struggling with the responsibility and cracking under the strain a bit. Definitely saveable but as you say the ending left a lot of unanswered questions.
It’s possible I was a bit too hard on them. I have very little relevant experience to give me room to judge them and they were mostly just normal people struggling to relate to their son. It’s obviously been a while since I read this, but I do think I remember one of the parents hitting Christopher, which I think is an unacceptable thing to do no matter how challenging your parenting situation is. But otherwise, they seemed to at least have his best interest in mind.
Yep, you’re right – there was a scene where Christopher and his Dad came to blows. Definitely not condoning punch-ups, even in super stressful situations. I can’t imagine how hard it must be to be in their situation, but that’s about as far as I get – tough to comment a year on, I know 🙂
p.s. As a librarian, properly love the Dewey challenge!
Thanks Matthew 🙂