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May 27, 2024

Review in Haiku: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

By Katrina Stonoff

Autistic boy tries
to understand the murder
of a dog at night.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, by Mark Haddon, is THE most surprising book I've read in years.

I'd heard about it, of course. Who hasn't?! Haddon got an astonishing amount of buzz (and you may know that tends to put me off). I knew it was written from the point of view of an autistic child, and I knew that Haddon captured that mindset brilliantly and, harder still, communicated it clearly. I knew that something happened to a dog in the first chapter, and the book was the child's attempt to figure out what. I knew I should probably read it since it was an "important" book (can you see my fingers hooking the air?).

But that's all I knew.

I suspected it was Literature with a Capital L: obscure, hard to read, impossible to understand. Yawn. Sad, isn't it? That I have this ugly bias against literature even though I tend to love the literary novels themselves? Sigh. Hopefully, someday I'll learn.

Anyway, I put it on my mental "To Be Read" list, but never actually obtained a copy.

Then my husband brought it home one day from a trip (he always brings back books; see why I adore him?). "This looks really interesting," he said, holding it out. "Have you heard about it?"

Heavy sigh. My excuses were over, so it moved onto my shelf, but I had no intention of reading it soon. I have lots of great books on that TBR shelf, books I cannot wait to get to!

It was thinner than I expected, though, not the doorstop I thought it would be, so I opened it to skim the first page before shelving it.

It was delightful! The voice is fresh and innocent and original. Deeply refreshing and satisfying. I literally put aside the book I was in the middle of to read Curious Incident. It took me a little more than 24 hours, but only because I had obligations at home.

This is a book I would recommend everyone read, like The Kite Runner. Partly because I think the world would be a better place if everyone could see through autistic eyes for a while. But also because I think few people would not enjoy it.

It's understated emotionally -- as, indeed, it must be. But the emotion is there and strong. The conflict is there and clear -- no small feat, since the boy telling the story is often confused, reaches erroneous conclusions regularly, and is unaware of the central conflict for much of the book. The writing is spare but lively, and good! Damn good.

I have no nitpicks, no quibbles, no minor issues. I know of nothing that could have improved the book.

Geez, when have you heard me say that?! This book must be good.

Article © Katrina Stonoff. All rights reserved.
Published on 2008-06-30
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