My latest review is a book from an author whose books I have been meaning to read for a long time. I had heard great things about bestselling author Patrick Ness’ writing, so was interested in reading A Monster Calls, which was originally published in 2011 and has recently been adapted for film.
‘The monster showed up just after midnight. As they do.’
In A Monster Calls, Patrick Ness has adapted a story of love, loss and hope from an original idea by Siobhan Dowd. This idea would have formed Siobhan Dowd’s fifth book but sadly she passed away before she was able to complete it. And this for me made the reading of this story all the more poignant. It is the story of a boy called Conor and the dream that he has night after night, every night since his mother became ill. In it a monster comes to visit him, a monster that wants something from him. And as Conor struggles to process the meaning of these nightmares, he is faced with something even more frightening – the fear and uncertainty surrounding his mother’s deteriorating health. And as everyone around him rallies round, it is down to Conor, with a little help from his night time visitor, to find answers.
‘Stories are the wildest things of all, the monster rumbled. Stories chase and bite and hunt.’
I found this to be an incredibly moving story, in which difficult subject matter is handled with sensitivity, compassion and a little humour. It is a story that deals with the complexity of our emotions. We see the impact that illness can have on a patient, and their loved ones. And for Conor, we see the difficulties that he faces each day, even those that arise from people who mean well – the sympathetic glances, the words of encouragement, declarations of his strength and bravery. It deals with very human fears, the fear of losing a loved one, the fear of letting someone go. It also shows us that fear and anger are part of what makes us human, and how we can contend with the fragility of life. The monster itself is a wonderful character and presence in the book who visits Conor and recounts stories for him to ponder, stories that may help him come to terms with the difficult situation he finds himself in. And as I reached the end of Conor’s story I was left moved, and affected by this story of courage and hope in the darkest of times.
‘It was like standing at the end of the world, almost like being alive and awake in his nightmare, the screaming, the emptiness-‘
A Monster Calls is a beautifully written story of love and loss, of grief and strength. It is a powerful and compassionate tale which has relevance to us all.