Wednesday, August 19, 2009

197. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time – Mark Haddon

History: This book was published in 2003.
Plot: Christopher discovers the dead body of Wellington, his neighbour's dog, speared by a garden fork. Mrs Shears, Wellington's owner, calls the police, and Christopher comes under suspicion in the dog's death. He decides to investigate the dog's death. However, he is severely limited by his fears and difficulties when interpreting the world around him. Throughout his adventures, Christopher records his experiences in a book, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time. During his investigation, Christopher meets people whom he has never before encountered, even though they live on the same street.
Ed, his father, discovers the book and confiscates it from Christopher, after a brief fight between them. While searching for the confiscated book, Christopher uncovers a trove of letters which his mother wrote to him, dated after her supposed death, which his father has also hidden. He is so thoroughly shocked by his father lying about his mother's death that he is unable to move, curls up on the bed, vomits, and groans for several hours until his father returns home.
Ed realizes that Christopher has read the letters and cleans him up. He then confesses that he had indeed lied about Judy's death and also that it was he who killed Wellington, stating that it was a mistake resulting from his anger after a heated argument with Mrs Shears.
Christopher, having lost all trust in his father and fearing that Ed may try to kill him since he had already killed Wellington, flees to London and his mother. Guided by his mother's address from the letters, he embarks on an adventurous trip to London, where his mother lives with Mr Shears.
After a long and confusing journey, evading policemen, and feeling ill from the overwhelmingly large amount of information and stimuli from the trains and crowds around him, he finally finds his way to his mother and Mr Shears' home, and waits outside until they arrive.
His mother, Judy, is delighted that Christopher has come to her; she cannot believe that Ed would tell Christopher that she was dead. Mr Shears doesn't want Christopher living with them and never did. Moreover, very soon after arriving, Christopher wants to return to Swindon in order to take his mathematics A-level. His mother leaves Mr Shears, their relationship having broken down because of the conflict over Christopher.
She then moves into a rented room in Swindon and, after an argument with Ed, agrees to let Ed meet with Christopher for daily brief visits. However, at this stage, Christopher remains terrified of his father; he hopes Ed will be imprisoned for killing Wellington. The story ends with Ed getting Christopher a pet dog, because Toby, Christopher's pet rat, had died, and promising that he will rebuild trust with Christopher slowly, "no matter how long it takes". Christopher asserts that he will take further A-level exams and attend university. He completes his first mathematics A-level with top grades and — despite previously wanting to be an astronaut — his ultimate goal is to become a scientist.
The book closes with Christopher optimistic about his future, having solved the incident of the murdered dog, gone to London on his own, found his mother, written a book, and got an A in his A-level maths exam.
Review: "This is a murder mystery novel," the boy with Behavioral Problems explains a few pages further on. A fan of Sherlock Holmes stories, Christopher decides to investigate the poodle's murder and turn the story into a book of his own.
Christopher is quite good at puzzles, at math, and at remembering. He is, however, entirely incapable of delineating among the various grades of human emotion on the scale between happy and sad, which makes for a curious, if not altogether perplexing perspective. The narrator may not recognize them, but emotions lurk behind virtually every clue he uncovers. Still, his pitch never varies. Christopher never slips off course. The author's foremost accomplishment, in a book chock full of them, is to deliver a wrenching domestic fiction in such clipped, deductive prose.
Opening Line: “It was 7 minutes after midnight.”
Closing Line: “And I know I can do this because I went to London on my own, and because I solved the mystery of Who Killed Wellington? And I found my mother and I was brave and I wrote a book and that means I can do anything.”
Quotes: ""Prime numbers are what is left when you have taken all the patterns away. I think prime numbers are like life. They are very logical but you could never work out the rules, even if you spent all your time thinking about them.""
"...people who believe in God think God has put human beings on earth because they think human beings are the best animal, but human beings are just an animal and they will evolve into another animal, and that animal will be cleverer and it will put human beings into a zoo, like we put chimpanzees and gorillas into a zoo. Or human beings will all catch a disease and die out or they will make too much pollution and kill themselves, and then there will only be insects in the world and they will be the best animal."
Rating: Superb

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