The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
Mark Haddon was an author and illustrator of children's books, who one day decided to write a book for adults instead. An image popped into his head – of a dead poodle in someone's front lawn, stabbed with a pitchfork – and he thought it was just about the funniest thing in the world (source). Hmm, okay, Mark.
But before we give him the old "you're nuts" treatment, let's take a look at what that turned into. From that image alone, Haddon created the immensely successful The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. It has sold millions of copies (tens of millions, really), won the prestigious Whitbread Award in 2003, and today can be found in bookstores in just about every country in the world (source).
So, what's it all about, then? Haddon's first foray into adult novels tells the story of a fifteen-year-old boy named Christopher Boone, who finds – you guessed it – a dead dog in his neighbor's yard. On the back of most editions of the book, Christopher is described as having Asperger syndrome, an autism spectrum disorder that makes social interactions difficult and uncomfortable. While this certainly seems to describe Christopher's experience in the world, his disorder is actually never specified in the book. He himself only says he has "Behaviour Problems" (73.1).
A fan of Sherlock Holmes stories, Christopher decides to do some detective work of his own, and solve the mystery of who killed the pup. Along the way, he discovers a whole lot more than he expected – both about himself and about parts of the world he never knew existed. If that sounds like a story just waiting to be turned into a movie, well, you're in luck: a film adaption is in the works.
But the book is a precious gem on its own (we feel precious for even putting it that way, but it's true!), as Christopher jumps from advanced astrophysics to the existence of God, from quadratic equations to his favorite animals at the zoo. Christopher's narrative voice is unlike any in literary history, and, against all odds, he makes a wonderful guide for this fascinating journey.
Why Should I Care?
Shmoop has read a lot of books. And we mean a lot. Each of these books has a narrator, of course, and we have to admit: sometimes the narrators can start to blend together.
Well, Christopher Boone is one narrator you'll never forget. After all, this is the only book we know of that's told from the point-of-view of a fifteen-year-old boy with Asperger syndrome.
If nothing else, Mark Haddon has brought us a character who will force us to look at the world from a different perspective. A perspective where the most complex mathematical formulas are common sense, and an everyday conversation is an impenetrable puzzle.
Getting out of our own heads is never a bad thing, so take a seat, pick up the book, and enjoy the journey.