REVIEW: "A Monster Calls", by Patrick Ness

Title: A Monster Calls
Author: Patrick Ness 
Original Idea: Siobhan Dowd
Narrator: Jason Isaacs
Length: 3 hrs and 51 mins
Audible Release: 21st June 2011
Publisher: Bolinda Publishing Pty Ltd

Taken from Audible

The First novel to win both The Carnegie Medal and Kate Greenaway Medal

The monster showed up after midnight. As they do. But it isn't the monster Conor's been expecting. He's been expecting the one from his nightmare, the one he's had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments, the one with the darkness and the wind and the screaming....This monster is something different, though. Something ancient, something wild. And it wants the most dangerous thing of all from Conor. It wants the truth.


The first couple of paragraphs are going to be really girlie. Fair warning. 

Okay, I think I have two new men in my life and they've ended up there entirely based upon their voices. The first is Patrick Ness. I've actually loved Ness as an author since reading his
Chaos Walking trilogy. How can you not love that kind of imagination? However, I now have a bit of a fan-girl crush on him due to the introductory author's note which accompanied this recording. You kind of have to listen to the guy tell you to "Run with it. Make trouble." in order to understand the hotness of the guy's voice. I was wishing that he would narrate the whole thing. 

And then Jason Isaacs stepped in. If you're thinking that you know the name but can't think where from, then Isaacs was the actor who played Lucius Malfoy in the
Harry Potter movies. He did a fantastic job with his narration of this book and I could quite happily have listened to him for much longer than the four hours it took to read A Monster Calls

This was a really touching story. Connor was a great lad and his situation was heartbreaking.  His mother, who battles cancer throughout the narrative, was a brave and touching character. Connor's grandmother seemed cold and cruel at times, but was simply a woman trying to remain strong in the face of the inevitability that she would soon have to bury her daughter. 
Ness subverts expectations with this narrative. He highlights the often sad conclusions of so many real-life narratives, a theme that is all the more poignant given Siobhan Dowd's own untimely death due to breast cancer. 

The eponymous Monster of the book was also a subversion of common conceptions. He wasn't scary in a conventional way. Even Connor wasn't scared of him at first. He didn't eat babies or terrorise villagers. He was scary because he made Connor face up to the unfairness of reality and made him see how frightening the truth can be. Sometimes the scariest thing about tragedy is how happy it can make us when it's over...

I enjoyed the tales told by the Monster as I've always enjoyed the sometimes dark-morality of fairy tales. Ness' monster captured this tone and atmosphere superbly. Yesterday I mentioned Stephen King's knack for capturing the perfect tone for dark bedtime stories and I have to repeat this praise for Ness today!

Overall, this was a moving story. It is impressive that such a short tale can have such depth and beauty, and it is also impossible to forget the circumstances that saw it being written. However, great stories live for a long time. It is a touching tribute to the imagination of a strong writer that this tale was given life by the incredible Patrick Ness. His skills breathed life into a tale that might have otherwise been left to dust. 

There was just a teeny tiny drawback to this audiobook. There are definitely times when audios have the advantage over good, old-fashioned dead tree books. However,
 this is one of those rare occasions when I'm going to suggest that you get the hardback. In using my monthly Audible credit on this lovely story, I missed out on the absolutely tremendous illustrations by Jim Kay. Thankfully, I work in a library so I was able to check them out retroactively! 

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