After the recent success of the Old Vic’s production as well as the 2016 film version of the novel starring Liam Neeson, A Monster Calls has re-surfaced in bookshops and continued to induce floods of tears amongst its distraught audience.
“Shout all you want…I’ve seen worse.” Thirteen year old Conor O’Malley declares to the part yew tree, part monster within the novels first few pages. Balancing carrying on with everyday life with his mother’s struggle with cancer, Conor is visited by the monster at the same time every night: 12:07. Just as Ness constantly reminds the reader of the monster’s impending arrival, so the ensemble during the Old Vic production audibly chimed the time on the clock, a continuous reminder to the audience that time is both sparce and precious. The monster visits on three occasions to tell him three different stories and, as he menacingly tells Connor, on the forth visit he will demand from him, “not just any truth. Your truth.”
Author of the acclaimed The Chaos Walking Trilogy, Ness continues to show his pulchritudinous way with words in this truly, heart-breakingly beautiful novel. From Connor’s brave mother, to his forsaken best friend Lily to his flaky father, Ness manages in a mere two hundred and fifty pages to shape and create incredibly real and very human characters. More than just a story of a young boy struggling to cope with his mother’s illness, it is a novel about the struggle of growing up and learning the faults and hardships within the real world. Pain and grief so great that even a real-life monster isn’t as scary as the world located just outside your window.
Technically classified as a young adult novel, A Monster Calls is the kind of book that is one in a million: one that can be understood, cherished and loved by all. If you’re in need of a cry or simply just a new read, do yourself a favor and grab the tissues and a warm cup of tea, ready to open yourself up to the words of the old yew tree; you won’t regret it.
Words by Anastasia Roe