Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Book Club: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

My new book club had our first get-together last week and I enjoyed it. It was nice meeting new people and it's always fun to discuss a book over a meal. Our first assignment was The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon. I thought this was the perfect choice for a first book. There wasn't much heavy discussion or debate involved because everyone liked the book.

A Whitbread award winner for 2003, the book is told from the point of view of Christopher, an autistic fifteen-year-old boy who tries to solve the murder of his neighbor's dog. Christopher's investigation soon leads him to uncover secrets about his parents' marriage.

I thought it was insightful to read the book from the point of view of an autistic teenager and to see how his mind worked. Haddon does an excellent job of conveying how literal and logical Christopher's mind actually is. The insertion of mathematical equations, puzzles and drawings adds to our understanding of Christopher's thinking. I thought the book was amazingly clever and I'm surprised at how such a simply written novel in many levels left me with a greater understanding of how autistic people see the world.

My book club loved the book. Surprisingly, one of our members seemed so knowledgeable about autism in general. She later revealed that she has a family member in the autism spectrum. It was fascinating to hear her own personal experience and she suggested for us to see the film Temple Grandin starring Claire Danes. I'd never heard of  this film or of Temple Grandin, an autistic doctor of animal science who invented a system to slaughter cattle in a more humane manner. I've since seen the film and it was intriguing so I do recommend it if you're interested in this subject matter.

 Claire Danes as Temple Grandin

At the end of our meeting, we asked every member to rate the book out of five. I gave it four stars. Though I enjoyed this book and thought it was very unique, I only give five stars to favourite novels or perfect ones. Our next read will be The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery, a book I've already read and loved! I wonder what my book club will think of it.

After that, it will be my turn to host so if you have any more suggestions for book club reads please keep them coming. I'm thinking of The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood, a book I'd love to reread and I think it would  generate a lot of discussion. But I also wouldn't mind doing The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters, Talking it Over by Julian Barnes, or something by Paul Auster. Hmm, what do you think? Meanwhile the hubby stayed up all night reading Cutting For Stone by Abraham Verghese. I haven't read it yet, have you? He says it's excellent so far. Ah...so many choices. If I only host once a year, which one should I choose?


  1. That sounds like a fun evening and I agree that that would make a good book club choice. The film looks interesting so I must look out for that...

    (Am afraid I didn't enjoy The elegance of the hedgehog At All so will look forward to hearing what your group make of it!)

  2. What a great book club meeting! I loved that Haddon book - it was such a good read! I've heard of that movie, but have yet to see it. Perhaps something to add to my list of dvds to borrow.

    As far as which book to read for when you host - that is a tough one, because there are so many great choices. Atwood is always a good one and Paul Auster definitely would make for interesting discussion. Hmmm.

    Hedgehog was brilliant - one of my favorite reads!! Hope your book club likes it.

  3. A neat companion read for the Haddon novel would be Elizabeth Moon's The Speed of Dark. It won the Nebula a few years back: it's a character-driven novel that forces you to reconsider "what is normal", inspired by her autistic son.

  4. I thought the inclusion of puzzles and math problems was good too, even if I often didn't understand them. And I thought Siobhan (am I remembering her name right? The woman at Christopher's school) was a superb character, even if we only saw a little of her.

  5. Interesting to read your review. I have not read this one but my husband loved it and my brother in law (who is a medic) thought it was dreadfully cheap and simplistic so I have kind of avoided it on the basis that it is rather controversial in our family!
    Thanks for posting this enticing review!

  6. Sadly, I can't make any recommendations for what to read next, but I also loved The Elegance Of The Hedgehog and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttimee. The later was just like a boy with autism; I know as I've taught several of them. It about broke my heart in many places. I'm looking forward to seeing what your book club chooses. (Have a you ever read The Robber Bride by Atwood? It's my favorite of hers, besides Cat's Eye. The Armeggedon stuff she's been writing lately with Oryx and Crake, and her latest, are definitely not my favorite.)

  7. I'm so jealous you're in a book club. I joined one and it turned out to be just an excuse for ladies to get together for a glass of whine (and wine).

  8. @verity - I'm sorry you didn't like Hedgehog. It seems to be a love it or hate it book.
    @Buried in Print - Thanks for the recommendation. I'll check it out.
    @Jenny - I liked the Siobhan character too. She sounded like a great teacher.
    @dolcebelleza - I've read Cat's Eye and The Robber Bride though I forgot what it was about. I love all things Atwood even her speculative fiction.

  9. Talking it over by Julian Barnes - I'm a great fan of his and would then like to vicariously read what your book club thought of it.

  10. Lovely review for a lovely sounding book....this book is definitely going on my TBR :)

  11. I remember reading about Temple Grandin in one of Oliver Sacks' books and thinking she sounded like a fascinating person.

    As for the book: I'm one of the few remaining people who have yet to read it, but I'll have to fix that one of these days.

  12. Sounds like you have a wonderful book club. Glad you enjoyed the book. I've had this one on my TBR pile for awhile but sadly have not gotten around to reading it!

  13. @Joan Hunter Dunn - I love Talking it Over by Barnes but I've checked some bookstores and there aren't enough copies available in Manila. I'd love to reread it though.

    @Nymeth - I don't remember reading about Grandin in an Oliver Sacks book. I actually thought of also doing Sacks for the book club. His stories are always fascinating.


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