Monday, September 05, 2005

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

One of the factors that lends uniqueness to a novel is the author's narrative style and this style naturally gains more importance when the book is a first person narrative. Mark Haddon's first novel The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time has a very unique narrator who lends the story an emotional core that very few books manage to create.

The book is narrated by Christoper Boone, a 15-year-old autistic boy, who is being brought up by his father since his mother died from a heart attack. Christopher comes across a neighbor's dog killed by a pitchfork and takes it upon himself to find out who did it. But as he investigates, he finds out more about his family and has to conquer his fears to step beyond boundaries that he has never crossed before.

There have been movies(Rain Man, Mercury Rising to name a couple) that had important characters who were autistic. But we were mere observers to their behavior in those cases. By making an autistic boy the narrator of the story, Haddon allows us a peek into his mind here and that makes for fascinating reading. We've seen the characters in those movies groan loudly on hearing strange noises, do math blazingly fast and be scared of new people and crowds. But here we understand the reasons behind those behaviors(and quite a few others). We understand how Chris' mind works and why he does the things that he does. So the book serves as a journey into the mind of a very unique individual.

Haddon has been able to put himself in the shoes of an autistic boy and so the book has a very simple but endearing style. Every line in the book makes complete sense considering the narrator - from the very reason the book was written to its oddly-numbered chapters to the reason why a novel has an appendix with the proof to a mathematical theorem! Even the way the book goes on a tangent at different points frequently mirrors the way the mind works and makes things more realistic.

The murder mystery itself is solved at a rather unexpected point and so comes as a surprise. But this allows the book to branch into some new areas that make it more emotional. It also allows the book to expand its canvas beyond Chris' house and neighborhood, thereby magnifying his problems exponentially. It is a testimony to the effect Chris has on us that we end up hoping fervently that he makes it to his target. The book doesn't have real closure but that works for this book. The last line is just perfect.

PS: This book was recommended by one of the commenters in one of my previous posts. I had never heard of this book before that and can say with certainty that I wouldn't have read it if not for the recommendation. I couldn't find the post and so do not know what the commentor was. But whoever it was... Thank You!


At 12:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Balaji,
Incidentally I'm reading this book right now and am enjoying it. I read a book last week and considering how well-written your movie reviews are, I thought I should ask you to read the book and maybe review it in your blog. It's a book called "Q & A" by Vikas Swarup. Mind you, it's not a literary book, but popular fiction.


At 12:55 PM, Blogger Munimma said...

This is in my tbr list.
I heard about Q & A. The review I read was good.
Since you are a Dave Barry fan, have you read the new one he has co-authored with a mystery writer, a sequel to Peter Pan? If you get hold of it and like it, let me know.

At 1:19 PM, Blogger Balaji said...

faffer, i checked out Q&A on amazon. interesting plot and great reviews. i already have my next 2 reads lined up(Broken Prey, The Kite Runner) but definitely intend to check out Q&A real soon. Thanks for the pointer :)

munimma, i'm a big fan of barry's columns and observations on everyday life. but never felt like reading fiction by him. haven't read his earlier novel either though i've read all his non-fiction books several times over. haven't heard of this latest one but in no big hurry to read it :)

At 5:44 PM, Blogger Narayanan Venkitu said...

Thanks for the good review.!! It will be in my To-read book list.!!

By the way same thing happened to me...Someone recommended a book 'Do Men have Nipples?'...nice book I bought it two days back...

Was that you?

At 7:03 PM, Blogger Balaji said...

narayanan, no that wasnt me. but coincidentally i saw that book too when i was @ the bookstore yesterday. seemed very funny and interesting. but not a book i would buy. seemed like a good read for when i'm sitting at the bookstore having a coffee :-)

At 11:14 PM, Blogger ammani said...

Well written review. Does Chris have autism or aspergers?
I loved the book too.

At 9:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

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At 6:47 PM, Blogger Vetirmagal said...

Yes, Chris haunted me for many days. This was a very good book. I would like to read it again after a few months!.

I liked your review very much. Well wirtten. Thanks.


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