A Monster Calls
As cliche as it is to say, books really do transport you. They can evoke a number of emotions ranging from joy and elation, to sorrow and disappointment. As a self-dubbed book worm (and on first name terms with my local librarians, yes – I know they’ve seen my library card) I have read a broad range of books and to say that these books have changed my life is saying something.
Without further ado, allow me to introduce you to the two books who have changed my life.
The first novel is a tragic tale but one which is all too familiar. The story tells the tale of a young boy, Conor O’Malley who lives with his Mother in a small country village. His Mother is terminally ill with cancer. It becomes evident at the beginning of the book that Conor is not necessarily aware of his Mothers impending death. Yet as the novel progresses you understand that he is a child in denial, trying to come to terms with his Mothers illness.
Conor suffers from a recurring dream which is present throughout the novel. This dream hides a truth which Conor is unable to admit.
The beauty of the book is the way in which the author Patrick Ness depicts Conor’s suffering in a beautifully whimsical way injecting the childhood magic which Conor has been missing since his Mother’s diagnosis. Conor is visited each night by an ancient twisted tree who sits on a hill behind his house.
The Monster visits Conor in the middle of the night and tells him that over a period of nights, he will visit and tell him three truths all with a lesson to learn. In exchange, Conor has to reveal HIS truth to the Monster.
I firmly believe that this book is best experienced being read so I won’t give too much away, but the progression of the novel explores the pain of losing a parent as a child, adjusting to the aftermath of living with another family member and of a child experiencing a mix of emotions which are usually only experience as you age. Anger, guilt and desperation. Intertwined with this are several fairytales which are used to explore real life scenarios and to encourage Conor to face his truth.
The trees presence serves as a means for Conor to process his emotions and to come to terms with the anger and pain he is feeling in order to be able to let his Mother go.
What makes the book so devastatingly heartbreaking is realising that this child, who should feel happy and secure is feeling desperately lonely. His anger, desperation and pain resonates through the book and the elegance of Ness’ writing explores it in a way which leaves you emotionally drained – but in a good way.
A book has never made me cry quite as much as this book and when it was eventually made into a film, I was blubbing like a baby and had to make my partner sit in the screening for a good fifteen minutes until I had composed myself.
Ever since reading the book, I have thought about it regularly and it has opened my eyes to the effects of cancer on a child as I feel it is overlooked in literature. The book doesn’t gloss over this difficult subject but addresses it nonetheless.
The Book Thief
The Second book is called The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. This book was recommended to me by my partners Mum months ago but I only got round to reading it just this week.
She warned me that it would be unlike anything I’ve read before, and it absolutely was.
The novel explores Nazi Germany from the point of view of Death. Death is the narrator of this spellbinding novel which follows the life of a young german girl names Liesel as she navigates life during one of the most testing times in the modern world.
As someone who hasn’t got an awful lot of knowledge about the second world war other than reading the boy with the striped pyjamas through my English GCSE’s, this beautiful written book provided an insight into what life was like for Germans during this time.
One of the things which made this book so outstanding was how much I felt absorbed in the story. I really got completely lost in the world of the characters and found myself truly invested in their lives. You could feel every part of their personality and grew to love each one of them. The story unfolds through the intertwined lives of Germans living under Hitlers regime in the fictional town of Molching.
Despite being a book about an extremely delicate topic, the author hasn’t filled the pages with gore and misery. As a reader, we still get the messages he intends us to, but it doesn’t damage the tone of the story.
The novel gives you a new appreciation for the heartache and pain that not only Jewish men, women and children endured but also the Germans that Hitler was claiming to be building a better life for.
It is incredibly hard to write about why this book is so amazing because it is one of the most intricately written books I have read. Yet somehow, it was incredibly easy and a joy to read. There were many messages to take from this book, perhaps the most prominent being the power of words.
Our main character Liesel is delivered at 33 Himmel Street by her Mother after witnessing the death of her younger brother on the way to Molching. Her Mother leaves her in the care of Rosa and Hans Huberman as the imminent war approaches. We follow Liesel in her new life with the Hubermanns; coming to terms with the loss of her brother, learning to love her foster parents, hiding a Jewish man and falling in love with her childhood friend.
The book thief broke my heart, filled me with hope and joy before breaking it again throughout and I was genuinely sad when I finished it. I already miss the wonderful characters and the exquisite writing of Markus Zusak.