One of my Top Ten Books of 2015
I've had a different Patrick Ness book, More Than This, on my Goodreads To Be Read list for ages, but recently spotted A Monster Calls as part of an Audible two-for-one offer so ended up buying it first. A relatively short audio book at just under four hours, I listened to it in two chunks whilst walking around Mojacar in Spain. Had I known what an amazing listen it was going to be, I think I would have arranged to complete the whole tale in a single walk! I understand that the printed version has some excellent illustrations which are obviously not included in the audio, but, for me, Jason Isaacs' superb narration more than compensated. His voice and style are perfect.
Patrick Ness has an uncannily accurate understanding of the guilt and anguish of slow bereavement. His story is told through the eyes of a teenage boy yet Conor's emotions are universal and not restricted to someone of his age. I found myself identifying with his anger and dread despite having been more than twenty years older when going through a similar experience. Although intended for a younger audience, I think A Monster Calls would be a powerful listen for most adults as well. Conor's grandmother's tight-lipped reactions as she copes with both her grandson and her daughter are heartrending.
The portrayal of the tree is fantastic in all senses of the word and I loved the device of the four stories, both their non-traditional fairytale quality and Conor's contemporary retorts to them. Stories Are Important! I was surprised by how much I was affected by this story. It was a struggle to keep my tears at bay during the final chapters and I have been thinking back over it in the days since finishing. I now have a clearer view of my own experience and, thanks to that fourth story, an appreciation that it's not just me who has felt that way.
A Monster Calls is a brilliant audio book and I believe any others I listen to in 2015 will be have to be incredible to match its intensity.