Never judge a book by its cover. So far I have used this expression only in its metaphorical sense – do not judge people by their outward appearance. I never thought that one day I will use in its literary sense. If I had judged the book by its cover (and its title for that matter) I would never have read The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon and I would have missed a lot.
When my flatmate gave me the book I was shocked. The front cover was a disaster – a dog stabbed by a garden fork. It looked as if some 5 year old child had drawn it quite unsuccessfully. Next, I looked at the title… The Curious Incident with the Dog… What?! Wait! This is far too long to be a title. In fact it was quite long but it had no promising meaning as to the content of the book. I opened the first page. The first chapter was not chapter 1, it was chapter 2! I flipped the pages several times, thinking that the problem is me of course, but no! The first chapter was indeed chapter 2.
So far, the novel didn’t do anything to grab me. But my laptop was broken, I didn’t have any other books to read, I am not a huge fan of the TV, so…I just resigned and I started reading.
Sometimes the books that look unappealing are just the ones you need to read at that particular moment. Haddon’s novel quite proves that notion. It is told in first point-of view, with the main character being the 15-years-old Christopher. In the first chapter (my mistake, in the second chapter) the boy is startled to find that the neighbor’s dog has been killed with a garden knife. Christopher is upset; he loves dogs and he decides that if the police is not going to solve the case, he is. Thus, the young detective and narrator sets on a terrifying journey to discover who killed the dog. In the process, however, he discovers hidden truths in his family that are going to turn his world upside down.
Up to this point, nothing so impressing. If you keep reading though, you will understand what makes this book special. The main character. Christopher is not a usual boy. He is autistic; he is great at maths and physics but he doesn’t know anything about the human relationships. He is afraid to be touched or to be in the same room with strangers. He hates the colors yellow and brown and loves red. He doesn’t eat pieces of food that touch each other. He loves patterns, puzzles, and logic and he knows all the prime numbers up to 3,000. That is why all of the chapters have only numbers that are prime.
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.
Christopher notices details that most other people don’t. He loves the sky and the universe, he dreams of being an astronaut or a scientist and he has never been by himself further than the street he lives on. Thus, you can imagine the difficulties of the boy, when he sets on a journey to find the murderer of the dog, a journey that even takes him to London.
Actually, the author never mentions it, but most critics assume that Christopher has the Asperger’s syndrome (disorder that is characterized by significant difficulties in social interaction, along with restricted and repetitive patterns of behavior and interests). Accordingly, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is written simply and understandably. It features a lot of drawings, maps, and lists. In fact, this unusual aspect makes its immerse effect on the reader even more powerful. Haddon shows a great understanding of the autistic mind and the way it works. Sad, funny, challenging, surprising, this novel is going to make you laugh, cry, and think seriously about the people with disabilities.