The apprehension involved with revisiting a treasured literary piece from my youth has always stopped me from re-reading my favourite novels. I have no trouble watching a film that I once loved, but reading a book for the first time is an entirely different experience that is too difficult to re-capture. I hold a belief that replicating the conditions and feelings surrounding the first engagement with a work of literature is impossible to replicate. This review will be spoiler free.
The Curious Incident of The Dog in The Night Time is a book written by Mark Haddon. At a point in my life that I would consider the lowest, this simple story of a young boy who sought a world that made more sense to him, resonated heavily with me. It is written in the first person perspective of a teenage fledgling detective, Christopher Boone. He is a character who demonstrates qualities akin to Asperger’s Syndrome or High Functioning Autism, but it is not expressly addressed, as that is not what the story is about. The central focus is on a murder. Fifteen years old Christopher finds a bloody pitchfork jutting out the side of his neighbour’s dog one day. Rather than mourning over a cruel incident such as this, he takes it upon himself to become an investigator and bravely face his fear of social interaction to determine the culprit. A love of Sherlock Holmes fuels the fire of this budding new career. It is an adventure that forces him to engage with members of his neighbourhood and with his favourite teacher to find potential clues as to who would have a proper motive to kill a dog. There are two very different worlds painted from the perspective of Christopher. The first is his investigative fantasy that is cleverly in tribute to detective novels of old. The second involves the overarching story of other people’s interactions with Christopher. Due to his inability to pick up certain social cues, the reader is often more clued in than the main character.
We notice the signs of depression in his father and guilt following on from the loss of his wife. We see the loneliness of his elderly neighbour, Mrs. Alexander. We see the understanding that Siobhan displays as she encourages the intellectual side of Christopher as his primary educator.
There is ample opportunity to connect the dots with these sub-plots, which are casually talked about without knowledge of the weight they hold in the mystery surrounding the dog. Curious Incident is a grand adventure on the scale of a small town occurrence that proudly flexes its emotional subtext with its powerful hidden themes. However, don’t expect to be weeping during your read. While the deeper narrative is fascinating, there is a dry wit to the presentation of the book. A sense of humor that spawns from Christopher’s obtuse thoughts is refreshing when surrounded by some surprisingly grim moments. The fun that can be had from the interactions and off-the-wall social commentary is equally as engaging as the story itself.
People say that you always have to tell the truth. But they do not mean this because you are not allowed to tell old people that they are old and you are not allowed to tell people if they smell funny or if a grown-up has made a fart. And you are not allowed to say, “I don’t like you,” unless that person has been horrible to you. – Christopher Boone
My theory of walking down an already-trodden path proved accurate, but I did catch a brand new experience after all. It was never going to hit home as much as it did the first time I read it. This time it was a validation. Reflecting upon the themes that I identified with as a teen was a form of therapy. Abandonment, loneliness, jealousy, frustration, social anxiety, repression and escapism are themes that mirrored my own reality through the lens of Christopher and his father. To see how far the characters come from this kind of adversity is admirable. The book ends with unresolved issues being addressed and the mending of relationships thought to be lost. Additionally, we aren’t led to believe that everything is resolved. As with everything in life, there is an uphill climb to complete harmony and as long as we work hard at the problems we face then there is a silver lining at the end of the tunnel.
The Curious Incident of The Dog in the Night-Time is still my favourite book. I grew up with a greater understanding of myself from having read it. I overcame obstacles that I was told were always going to be present, but were not equitable to the person that I had to be. Books like this are not just important, they are beautiful. Should you ever be seeking a genuinely funny and charming book, then please check out this simple tale with grand ambitions by Mark Haddon.
Have you read it? What did you think? What is your favourite book? Let us know in the comments!