The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

by Mark Haddon

Paperback, 2004




Vintage Contemporaries (2004), Edition: 1st, 226 pages


Despite his overwhelming fear of interacting with people, Christopher, a mathematically-gifted, autistic fifteen-year-old boy, decides to investigate the murder of a neighbor's dog and uncovers secret information about his mother.

Media reviews

Mark Haddon specialises in innovative storylines in his work as an author, screenwriter and illustrator allied to his remarkable ability to demonstrate what it is to be autistic without sentimentality or exaggeration allied to a creative use of puzzles, facts and photographs in the text mark him
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out as a real talent drawing on a range of abilities.
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6 more
As Christopher investigates Wellington's death, he makes some remarkably brave decisions and when he eventually faces his fears and moves beyond his immediate neighborhood, the magnitude of his challenge and the joy in his achievement are overwhelming. Haddon creates a fascinating main character
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and allows the reader to share in his world, experiencing his ups and downs and his trials and successes. In providing a vivid world in which the reader participates vicariously, Haddon fulfills the most important requirements of fiction, entertaining at the same time that he broadens the reader's perspective and allows him to gain knowledge. This fascinating book should attract legions of enthusiastic readers.
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The imaginative leap of writing a novel -- the genre that began as an exercise in sentiment -- without overt emotion is a daring one, and Haddon pulls it off beautifully. Christopher's story is full of paradoxes: naive yet knowing, detached but poignant, often wryly funny despite his absolute
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Haddon's book illuminates the way one mind works so precisely, so humanely, that it reads like both an acutely observed case study and an artful exploration of a different ''mystery'': the thoughts and feelings we share even with those very different from us.
Mark Haddon's stark, funny and original first novel, ''The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time,'' is presented as a detective story. But it eschews most of the furnishings of high-literary enterprise as well as the conventions of genre, disorienting and reorienting the reader to
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devastating effect.
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To get an idea of what Mark Haddon's moving new novel, ''The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time,'' is like, think of ''The Sound and the Fury'' crossed with ''The Catcher in the Rye'' and one of Oliver Sacks's real-life stories.
Haddon is to be congratulated for imagining a new kind of hero, for the humbling instruction this warm and often funny novel offers and for showing that the best lives are lived where difference is cherished.

User reviews

LibraryThing member Jakeofalltrades
Reading this book again changes my perspective a fair bit. To be honest with my review reading fans, here's my previous review to show you what I previously thought the last time I read it:

"Absolute rubbish. Of course Asperger's children are capable of emotion. Trouble is they have problems
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expressing it. And what was up with Christopher not being able to understand jokes/metaphors on any level? Yes, Asperger's kids tend to take things literally sometimes, but not all the time, and it's more likely that Christopher could have been able to ask for help with understanding them, instead of turning to these clueless adults who have no sensitivity. No wonder Christopher seems like he doesn't have a soul, Mark Haddon treats him like he doesn't have one.

As a young person with Asperger's, I've read a lot about the condition, and this book was as offensive to me as a copy of The Satanic Verses would be to a member of the Taliban. Do avoid giving this book to parents who want to find out more about Asperger's, as it is very misleading."

However; reading this book again has made me notice a few things about myself that I didn't recognise the first time I read it:

1: The "Not Recognising Faces" thing. As an Asperger's person it's true that we have trouble reading facial expressions, but this is not a sign of a lack of empathy or emotion. I personally think Asperger's kids have emotions but have difficulty expressing them.
2: The "Needing Explanation" thing. This is something that effects me in everyday life, I might hear a detail of a conversation that I don't understand and I need explaination sometimes, if I've never encountered a term or situation before.
3: Taking things literally. I used to do this a lot when I was younger but as a young adult I'm more able to discern metaphors/sarcasm.

There's plenty of other stuff that I could list in this review, but what I really need to point out is that although this book is a good starting point for understanding Asperger's (I previously called it absolute rubbish because it was nothing like me), it's worth recognising that it's not a cookie cutter guide to dealing with Asperger's children, as good the story is, it's not a professional piece of research on the condition, it is an attempt by a non-Asperger's author to create a character who convincingly portrays the characteristics of one example of Asperger's.

Some of the other reviews by LT users I've read seem to think that Asperger's is a disease. It's not lethal, and it's not cancer. It's a condition that you live with if you're born with it. This is indeed an important and controversial book, and it probably didn't deserve the 1 star review I gave it previously. What really bugs me, when revisiting this book, is that like Christopher, many readers are taking the story literally as a definitive work on Asperger's, when they have no experience of it themselves or any experience of meeting Asperger's people.

I give it Four stars this time because of a sunny disposition, and new eyes for a book I needed to give a second chance.
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LibraryThing member queen_evie
This book took me about a day to read - it was easy and fast-paced. Personally, I thought it was a brilliant and heart-wrenchingly real portrayal of a 15 year old boy with Asperger's Syndrome. It doesn't give you the usual human sympathies and fulfilments that characters in normal novels do. You
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feel raw, steely, and shocked. The language used is brutally real and shows the inner-workings of a damaged mind with such detail and preciseness, it really gives the story a huge aspect of realism.

15-year old Christopher, living in his own world, has it turned upside-down when he finds his neighbour's dog dead in her garden, and decides to find out who killed it. Everything he took as normal and regular and fact is then put into question. And because it is told from Christopher's point of view, the reader figures out pieces of the mystery far before Christopher does.

But that doesn't make in uninteresting - Christopher is constantly writing abouts maths and physics, and the fact that he is writing a book (with the help and encouragement of his school teacher) - his long, unpunctuated senteneces and telling of events without emotion or feeling produces a strong, well-shaped voice. The book, to me, served it's purpose very well. It got me to think about something I would never have otherwise thought about - what goes on inside the mind of a person with AS - and why they might do some of the things they do. I think it was worthy of being as acclaimed as it was.
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LibraryThing member girlunderglass
" Mrs. Peters's husband is a vicar called the Reverend Peters, and he comes to our school sometime to talk to us, and I asked him where heaven was, and he said, "It's not in our universe. It's a different kind of place altogether." The Reverend Peters makes a funny ticking noise sometimes with his
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tongue when he is thinking. And he smokes cigarettes and you can smell them on his breath and I don't like this.
I said that there wasn't anything outside the universe and there wasn't another kind of place altogether. Except that there might be if you went through a black hole, but a black hole is what is called a singularity, which means it is impossible to find out what is on the other side because the gravity of a black hole is so big that even electromagnetic waves like light can't get out of it, and electromagnetic waves are how we get information about things that are far away. And if heaven was on the other side of a black hole, people would have to be fired into space on rockets to get there and they aren't or people would notice.
I think people believe in heaven because they don't like the idea of dying, because they won't to carry on living and don't like the idea that other people will move into their house and put their things into the rubbish.

Meet 15-year old Christopher Boone, a kid with Asperger's Syndrome whose dream is to become an astronaut. Christopher likes maths and science and puzzles. And he also likes animals. So when his neighbour's dog is killed he goes on a quest to find out who did it. It's hard being a detective when you have difficulties communicating with people, and a dozen other "behavioral problems" but Christopher does it anyway; and when he finds out who the murderer is, the revelations that follow turn his world upside down.

That's pretty much the storyline. I had no idea what rating I would give the book. While I was reading it I knew I was enjoying it very much: Christopher's little rants about maths puzzles, about the universe, about the inexplicable behaviour of his fellow humans, and about himself are lovely. Even now I find myself thinking about them and quoting them very often. But at the same time I didn't get the feeling that I was reading a great book. I think that has a lot to do with the writing. In Haddon's attempt to portray Christopher as realistically as possible, he makes him employ a simple, logical, undemanding and unsentimental language - which is indeed very effective in creating the impression that we're actually in Christopher's head. The problem with this, however, is that even after having read the book I still can't tell if Haddon is a good or a bad writer. On the one hand I cannot say the writing is beautiful - sometimes the book feels like reading a science book and sometimes like a teenager's diary. On the other hand, that is after all, the effect the author was trying to create: that the novel is written by a science-obsessed teenager with certain behavioral issues who views the world very logically. I must say I would be very curious to read something else by Haddon, if only to see how his writing differs from this book. That said, I did enjoy this one quite a bit and I think it is definitely worth the very short time it will take you to read it.
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LibraryThing member Zmrzlina
Thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. It isn't common for me to enjoy a best-seller as much as I did this one, but this is a very unusual book. When I read reviews, I'm struck by the inevitable use of "funny," "humorous," and the like to describe the read. It goes against the nature of the
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protagonist to think of this book as anything like funny. If Christopher could speak from beyond the last page, he would insist the story isn't funny because he can't tell jokes since he doesn't understand them. It is most irritating to have people think you are funny when you know you are not. I don't think this is a funny book, though it did make me smile. It makes me smile because it is natural to smile when you like someone, and I like Christopher very much.
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LibraryThing member mcecil
Remarkably pedestrian. It's unfortunate, since the premise is very interesting. The execution, however, leaves much to be desired. Like Judy Bloom dressed up in big boy clothes.
LibraryThing member owenre
Of course I didn't think I would be interested. It didn't seem like the kind of book I usually like. A friend convinced me to read it and I was gobsmacked. This is a fresh, compelling read, spare and right on target. Christopher, the autistic mathematical prodigy, gives us a narration unlike
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others. More than naive, more than merely logical, but flatly quirky and Haddon uses this tone to bring a dark humor to bear. Perhaps I loved this more because I am an actuary, prone to organizing things by color (candy at work and I know they bait me) and sometimes the voice of reason and logic speaks too loudly in my world.
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LibraryThing member ssadar
I hope it's not inappropriate to confess that this book made me cry for the spot-on description of autistic experience (not to mention the emotionally intense plot). Diversity in literature covers not only physical characteristics but mental and emotional as well.

Readers who are on the autistic
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spectrum will identify with the protagonist, and his step-by-step explanation of his actions and experiences can be extremely valuable in helping neurotypical readers understand another point of view. Mature themes and language mean it should be used with discretion if in a classroom setting.
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LibraryThing member browner56
This is almost a great book. The first half of the story is one of the most unusual and affecting murder mysteries that I have ever read. While wandering his neighborhood late one night, Christopher Boone, the 15-year old narrator, comes across a dog that has been stabbed with a garden tool. His
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quest to find the person who killed the dog forms the ostensible backdrop for the novel. However, things are not quite what they seem; Christopher has Asberger’s Syndrome and what he perceives is not always what actually happened.

The mystery is solved half-way through the novel and what we are then left with is the story of Christopher’s sometimes heartbreaking journey through life. The author has done a remarkable job giving the reader a glimpse into how Christopher’s mind works as well as the effect that his myriad special needs have on his family and caregivers. This is a laudable literary achievement and one that has undoubtedly helped to change attitudes toward people with learning and social disorders. Unfortunately, though, it does not necessarily make for compelling or satisfying fiction.
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LibraryThing member Alirambles
People either love or hate this book. I thought Haddon did a brilliant job of showing the world through the words of a 15-year old autistic boy. Through description and dialogue that the narrator, Christopher, doesn't fully understand yet still reports faithfully, the reader gets the full story.
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Christopher doesn't understand emotion, but the reader does, because his description of people's reactions shows us.

Christopher goes off on tangents that seem unrelated to the text, but as you read between the lines you realize that though he doesn't understand emotions he does feel them, and his monologues about math, religion, and the universe can be seen as analogies of his emotional frame of mind.
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LibraryThing member dogrover
Haddon knows autism. This story of a gifted boy's journey through a familiar world made strange is powerful, unsettling and human.Some of the best science fiction books press ordinary experiences through the filter of an alien mind, bringing the willing reader greater understanding of both Self and
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Other. "The Curious Incident" is not science fiction, and Christoper is not alien, but both do an admirable job of making the unexpected seem logical, and common sense seem cruel. Like a photographic negative, Christopher's world has all the same shapes, but the emphasis is "wrong".The shocking but simple death of a neighbor's dog presents a puzzle that grows into something more. Christopher's narration is spartan and poignant as he uncovers clues that everyone but he understands. His solutions are always straight-forward, and never fail to confuse and alarm those around him. Ultimately, both he and the reader find satisfying answers.
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LibraryThing member amusingmother
What a strange little book.Yet I "got" his reasonings. Now I think I might have Aspergers. I liked myself better yesterday before I self diagnosed myself.
LibraryThing member ashergabbay
Christopher is fifteen years old. He lives in Swindon, England, with his father. He knows all the prime numbers up to 7,057. He can name all the countries in the world, and their capital cities. He hates the colours yellow and brown. He loves animals and keeps a pet rat, Toby. Soon he's going to be
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sitting his Maths A-level.

But Christopher has behavioural problems: he does not like being touched; he smashes things and screams when he gets angry or confused; he never smiles; and he refuses to eat food if it is touching another sort of food. Christopher is autistic.

One night, Christopher discovers his neighbour's poodle, Wellington, lying dead in the garden. Christopher decides to become a detective and find the killer. This book is his story. Because he cannot comprehend figures of speech or use sarcasm or even imagine things which did not happen, Christopher writes this book as a series of faithfully recorded conversations and observations. A detailed diary of this thoughts and actions.

Haddon's debut novel is a disturbing book. Although it is funny in parts it is awfully sad in others. The author succeeds in exposing to the reader the world of an autistic child (Haddon worked with autistics) by avoiding the pitfalls of excessive sentimentalism or exploitation of a sensitive subject. It is easy to fall in love with Christopher, who needs to cope not only with his disability but also with a dysfunctional family that is breaking apart around him.

I can only hope that when the movie version of this book is made, it will not be a soppy schmaltz like "Rain Man".
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LibraryThing member FicusFan
Very Interesting book told from the POV of a 15 year old Autistic boy. He is very bright and thoughtful, and struggles to deal with and understand humans and their actions.

He has issues with color, textures, too much of anything too fast, emotions, strangers and expressing emotion, specifically
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touching. Yet he also has strengths math, science, and logic. He has a good heart and he knows his deficits and tries to fit in and not cause problems, when he is given time and space.

He also has grown and can reflect back on when he was less able to fit it. He has dreams and aspirations for the future.

The story starts with the murder of a neighborhood dog, and progresses to the unraveling of his comfy life, which turns out to be a lie. He struggles to come to terms with the imperfections of humanity, since he prefers the neat world of math and science.

It was a fun read, and quite gripping. It was sad to leave him at the end, even though it is a short book it was emotionally wrenching.
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LibraryThing member christinejoseph
[no official journal entry, listed in Best Books of 2005]

Christopher John Francis Boone knows all the countries of the world and their capitals and every prime number up to 7,057. He relates well to animals but has no understanding of human emotions. He cannot stand to be touched. And he detests
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the color yellow.

Although gifted with a superbly logical brain, for fifteen-year-old Christopher everyday interactions and admonishments have little meaning. He lives on patterns, rules, and a diagram kept in his pocket. Then one day, a neighbor's dog, Wellington, is killed and his carefully constructive universe is threatened. Christopher sets out to solve the murder in the style of his favourite (logical) detective, Sherlock Holmes. What follows makes for a novel that is funny, poignant and fascinating in its portrayal of a person whose curse and blessing are a mind that perceives the world entirely literally.
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LibraryThing member drebbles
When he discovers his neighbor's dead dog, autistic teenager Christopher John Francis Boone decides to solve the murder. He likes to read mystery novels and decides to write his own book as he investigates the death. The adults in his life discourage him from looking into the dog's death,
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especially his father, but Christopher has made up his mind and forges ahead. What Christopher doesn't realize is that there are more mysteries in his life than just a murdered dog and he begins to uncover truths that would be hard for anyone, autistic or not, to take. These truths will lead Christopher on one of the most frightening journeys in his young life.

"The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time" is a brilliantly written, at times heart-breaking novel. Written in the first person, author Mark Haddon does an excellent job of getting into Christopher's mind, to the point where it seems as if Christopher is a real person. The footnotes that pop up throughout the book also make it seem as if a real person is telling a real story. There are many excellent moments in the novel that show how an autistic person thinks, starting with the fact that each chapter begins with a prime number and including Christopher's need to tell the time, down to the last second, that something happened, and his belief that the color of cars that he sees can make it a good day or a bad day. The book has several humorous moments, but never at Christopher's expense. While the plot may seem simple, it uncovers many layers of Christopher's life. Although the book is written from Christopher's limited point of view, Haddon is a gifted writer and we still learn much about the people in his life, especially his parents, long before Christopher himself does and in fact, readers learn more than Christopher ever can.

"The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time" was so good that I hated to see it end. Well done.
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LibraryThing member alexezell
This is a one-trick pony which uses a gimmick to tell a pedestrian and utterly unmoving story. All the critics had the wool pulled over their eyes on this one. The trick could have been used to great effect if any of the other characters around Christopher were worth caring about. Yes, the author
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makes us care about someone who shows and understands no emotion, but he doesn't have to with the flat and static characters around him.
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LibraryThing member dibiboi
I appreciate this book for its creativity. It goes to great lengths to show the reader (sometimes through math problems, diagrams, and other methods of demonstration) how the Christopher, the main character, views the world. Haddon demonstrates considerable creative skill in pulling this off in a
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believable way. This is attested to by numerous readers who believe that Haddon has had personal experience with a child with Asperger's syndrome, which is not the case.

However, I also found reading this book to be a chore much of the time. This is actually a compliment to Haddon, because reading this book made me feel like I was babysitting Chrisopher for a good 3-4 hours, which is mentally draining to say the least. "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time" is well-crafted and effective in what it aims to do, but this does not mean that the general audience will find it very interesting for its entire duration.
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LibraryThing member chellerystick
I received this one from SantaThing, and read it quickly. I can't say what people with autism actually think and feel, so I can only hope that Haddon's experience working with them gave him an accurate idea of this, as I expect a great many people will be taking their main conceptualizations of
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autism from this book.

What I do know, however, is that this novel is a cleanly written and forceful essay on seeing and not seeing, understanding and not understanding. Haddon's Christopher notices precious things we often overlook, and struggles with precious things we take for granted. Both of these differences remind us to look around us with new eyes.

Highly recommended.
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LibraryThing member vanedow
Christopher Boone is 15 years, 3 months and 2 days old. He knows all the countries of the world and can recite their capitals. He likes animals, but he doesn't enjoy people - their facial expressions are too difficult to understand. He knows all the prime numbers up 7,057. Christopher is autistic.
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When Christopher decides to investigate the mysterious death of a neighbor's dog, he keeps a record of his findings, and his detection leads him in a direction he never expected.

This is an astonishing book. Autism isn't something that I know a great deal about, though I have known a few people who had it, and I found it absolutely fascinating to get this peek inside an autistic mind. This is a fictional work, based on Haddon's work with autistic children, but I think it comes as close as possible to reality.

The book is written in journal style, and it jumps about quite a bit as Christopher talks about prime numbers, why he doesn't like the color yellow, and why dogs are better than people. There are lots of diagrams that Christopher uses to organize his world ina way he understands. You get an inside view on the stresses of raising a child with autism and the toll it has taken on Christopher's parents, even though Christopher doesn't understand it himself. One of my favorite quotes of all time is from Marcel Proust and says "The only true voyage of discovery is not seeing new landscapes, but having new eyes. Both heartbreaking and hopeful, this book will give you new eyes.
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LibraryThing member HvyMetalMG
I picked this book up because I heard great things about it. This is not the typical type of book I would read, but I was pleasantly surprised. The book deals with a young autisitc boy who tries to solve the murder of a dog. The author does a great job of not only getting in the head of a young
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man, but of an autisitc one. Part myster, part human interest story, there are some touching moments and some humorous ones. It was an easy, enjoyable read.
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LibraryThing member ReluctantTechie
Excellent insight into the psyche of a person suffering from autism. The contrast of a great intellect with such a complete lack of social skills is hard to grasp. I would recommend this book to anyone who knows someone suffering from this malady- which is probably most of us- and it would generate
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compassion for the caregivers as well as the sufferer.. Plus the story is interesting and well-written.
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LibraryThing member debs4jc
15 year old Christopher has the orderly routine of his world shattered when he discovers his neighbors dog is dead--apparently murdered, since it was stabbed with a garden fork. Christopher decides to investigate the death of the dog--in imitation of one of his favorite characters, Sherlock Holmes,
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a daunting task for him since he has Autism. Despite having to work around his "quirks", Christopher manages to uncover a lot of secrets--secrets that will lead to drastic changes for him and his family.
This book was a quick, enjoyable, and yet though-provoking read. The drawings and such interspersed were definitely an added touch, they added insight into Christopher's character as well as making the book enjoyable. Some of the math problems (Christopher is a math savant) were over my head but I just skimmed over them. I most enjoyed the part about Christopher's journey to London, as it was a thrill to see how he was going to survive all the challenges thrown at him. Perhaps not the most realistic depiction, but well thought out as there was some sort of coping mechanism that he used to get past every obstacle. I'd highly recommend this, especially for fans of coming of age stories, tales of survival, family dysfunction, and for those in book groups looking for a quick read which still has lots to talk about.
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LibraryThing member jeniwren
Fifteen year old Christopher has photographic memory. He understands maths. He understands science. What he can't understand is other human beings? When he finds a neighbours dog lying dead on the lawn, he decides to track down the killer and write a murder mystery about it. But what other
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mysteries will he end up uncovering?

This is a wonderful story about a young boy with Asperger's Syndrome that gives the reader an insight on what it is like to live with autism through Christopher's eyes.
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LibraryThing member 15richw
Christopher John Francis Boone knows all the countries of the world and their capitals and every prime number up to 7,057. He relates well to animals but has no understanding of human emotions. He cannot stand to be touched. Although gifted with a superbly logical brain, Christopher is autistic.
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Everyday interactions and admonishments have little meaning for him. Routine, order and predictability shelter him from the messy, wider world. Then, at fifteen, Christopher's carefully constructed world falls apart when he finds his neighbor's dog, Wellington, impaled on a garden fork, and he is initially blamed for the killing.

Christopher decides that he will track down the real killer and turns to his favorite fictional character, the impeccably logical Sherlock Holmes, for inspiration. But the investigation leads him down some unexpected paths and ultimately brings him face to face with the dissolution of his parents' marriage. As he tries to deal with the crisis within his own family, we are drawn into the workings of Christopher's mind.

And herein lies the key to the brilliance of Mark Haddon's choice of narrator: The most wrenching of emotional moments are chronicled by a boy who cannot fathom emotion. The effect is dazzling, making for a novel that is deeply funny, poignant, and fascinating in its portrayal of a person whose curse and blessing is a mind that perceives the world literally.
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LibraryThing member seekingflight
This book purports to give you a glimpse of the world through the eyes of an autistic teenager. You could empathise with both he and his parents, and for me this was its real strength. It was clever and poignant, and although the novelty of its style wore thin with me at times, overall I found this
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original, thought-provoking, and skilfully written.
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Booker Prize (Longlist — 2003)
Costa Book Awards (Shortlist — Novel — 2003)
LA Times Book Prize (Finalist — 2003)
Alex Award (2004)
Commonwealth Writers' Prize (Winner — 2004)
Indies Choice Book Award (Honor Book — Adult Fiction — 2004)
Green Mountain Book Award (Nominee — 2006)
Garden State Teen Book Award (Winner — Grades 9-12 — 2006)
Grand Canyon Reader Award (Recommended — 2008)
Waverton Good Read Award (Winner — 2003)
McKitterick Prize (Winner — 2004)
Exclusive Books Boeke Prize (Winner — 2004)
South Bank Sky Arts Award (Literature — 2004)
Best Fiction for Young Adults (Selection — 2004)


Original language



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