What is Mark Haddon's The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time about, and what is your opinion of this book?

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kipling2448 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Mark Haddon's 2003 novel The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is about a high-functioning autistic 15-year-old boy named Christopher whose search for the killer of his neighbor's dog -- a death for which he is initially blamed -- leads to an unexpected and poignant reunion with the mother who had left him and his father, and whom Christopher had been led to believe was dead. Christopher's autism manifests itself through his extraordinary facility for mathematics and for his love of dogs, the thought processes of which are easier for him to understand than those of his fellow humans. As noted, the boy's search for the dog's killer leads him to his mother, who finds in the son she had abandoned a curiously compassionate individual whose gifts clearly outweigh the dysfunctional characteristics of his disability -- characteristics that preclude physical displays of affection normally associated with love and understanding.

Part of the uniqueness of Haddon's novel is the fact that it is narrated by Christopher in the stilted, somewhat dispassionate style characteristic of the speech pattern of some autistic children and adults. Plot contrivances that include Christopher's fondness for the stories of fictional detective Sherlock Holmes and his decision, consistent with a school counselor's recommendation, to write a book (Christopher decides to write a mystery story in line with his fascination with Sherlock Holmes: "I do like writing murder mystery novels. So I am writing a murder mystery novel.") provide the basis for the novel's narrative. Throughout the story, however, the reader is continuously reminded of this young man's gifts. Christopher is highly intelligent, and his narrative includes numerous expressions of the vast reservoir of knowledge his brain contains. 

The student's question includes a part that elicits commentary on the merits of Haddon's novel. Such subjective matters, however, are entirely the provenance of the individual reader. This "educator" enjoyed The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. It is an original and touching story that has deservedly enjoyed a relatively wide readership. That said, inquiring as to another individual's opinion of any work of literature, or of art in general, is not a substitute for formulating one's own opinion based upon a reading of the novel. Haddon's book is not particularly long (226 pages), and constitutes a fairly easy read. It is well written, particularly given its unconventional narrative style, and is properly categorized as a mystery for its genuine use of the "who dunnit?" aspect of the story. In short, it is an enjoyable book, but one that should be read by any student assigned to summarize and comment on it.

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