The fact that this post comes the day after I started this book is a testimony to how gripping a read it is…or it is a comment on the British weather and how the rain has made me a tad housebound. I like to think it is the former.
A Monster Calls follows Conor as he is coming to terms with his mother’s terminal illness, detailing how he copes and comes to accept the future of his family. This narrative was made even more poignant by the knowledge that the original idea for this novel came from Siobhan Dowd, who sadly passed away from cancer before getting the chance to see her ideas take shape in a story. However I truly believe Patrick Ness has done justice to Dowd’s original idea.
A Monster Calls is part tragedy, part dark fairy tale, for want of a better genre comparison. The Monster visits Conor at various points, telling him three stories describing scenarios where there are no opposites. There is not an obvious good/bad guy, fair/unfair deed or right/wrong answer, portraying the confusion that can arise from the more serious events and circumstances in life. The Monster teaches Conor so much about life and offers him advice; my favourite piece is that it is ok to be mad, which I feel is so completely true for some situations, not just the death of a loved one.
One of my favourite things about the book are the beautifully haunting illustrations. They really help to capture the darkness of the narrative and the loneliness of Conor. They are just so eerie. Jim Kay has done a fabulous job, creating these masterpieces from all sorts of materials, such as beetles and bread boards. Art never ceases to amaze me. Kay is not someone I have come across before, but then my knowledge of artists is somewhat limited, but I will definitely be looking out for his work in the future.