21 thoughts on “A Monster Calls – Patrick Ness

  1. Author’s Note followed by two chapters…

    ….chapters of a book that I see is taken from a dead person and revivified here even though it had never really existed at all …except in a dead mind? Till today.

    Conor’s nightmare is a co-vivid dream proper, I suggest, because the monster who dares his waking fright leaves yew leaves behind, even though it was a dream. Significant that his Mum is having ‘treatments’, and I can guess what sort of treatments, and, to his chagrin, Grandma is to visit to help look after him. Brave Conor thinks they can cope without Grandma’s help, I guess. Significant, too, that his Mum has tea for breakfast, not coffee?

    No spoilers ever intended except, possibly, those engendered by my passing real-time ignorances.
    Not necessarily a book intended to be read by me daily, but who knows?

  2. D0CB6F22-B88E-4F90-8A96-0AE4792EE589



    “…a scowl you could hang meat from.”

    Being bullied, and Conor’s surrogate sister Lily he betrays on the way to school, and then given homework to write, write about himself. Everyone knows anyway why his Grandma is bringing wigs for his mother when she comes. If they but knew she was. Much of this, for me, might be a Dadless Conor’s own life writing in the guise of Patrickness. The Yew as a symbol for You, now become Me.


    Stories are the wildest things, the monster rumbled. Stories chase and bite and hunt.”

    Having recently read and reviewed older stories, Joyce Marsh’s ‘The Tree’ alongside HR Wakefield’s terrifying ‘The Red Lodge’ HERE, such stories preternaturally ‘bite, hunt and chase’ me here, with the post-monster-visiting yew-berries of red in this book like blood in that other tree’s roots, its human ‘wood muscles’ and ‘spine’ with its arms outstretched, making a reader like me scared by the awesome pictures, too, shown as artwork in this book, pictures of such a monster, and I wonder how Conor dares go to meet it face to face, to receive the potential challenge of hearing the monster tree’s own threatened ‘Three Stories’ — and, later, Conor issuing his own story of truth, the true nightmare, the ultimate covivid dream that he has so far dared not issue to anyone at all, I infer, indeed not issued even to the author named on the spine. Meanwhile, his Mum’s post-‘treatments’ vomiting hints (to me at least) of a perverse version of Morning Sickness….

  4. Suddenly it had all become rather like a nightmare.” — Robert Aickman (The Swords)

    ‘Only the actual reality around you can be LIKE a nightmare. Nightmares themselves can be woken up from.’ …from my review HERE, written an hour before reading the next two chapters below:


    “…but the only way he really knew he was asleep was when the nightmare came.
    Not the tree. The nightmare.”

    After we meet his modernist Grandma whom Conor seems to fear or hate more than the monster as tree. Though perhaps grandmother and monster each came to combat the other, in their respective officious ways? But which kind of monster made his mother vomit after ‘treatments’, treatments that were meant to make her better? Whatever the case, we now begin to appreciate Conor’s maturity for his age, his sensitivity to sarcasm etc. Anyway, just as the ‘monster’ came that night — an entity somehow differentiated from the ‘nightmare’ — to tell the now woken Connor its first promised story, I appreciated even more the meaning of ‘stories’ here relating to my own theories over the last 13 years of gestalt real-time reviewing, i.e. stories as the truth or even tactile actuality (!) of fiction…

    Stories are wild creatures, the monster said. When you let them loose, who knows what havoc they might wreak?


    Sometimes people need to lie to themselves most of all.

    Quite a revelation this first tale told by the monster Yew to Me, as well as to Conor, the first seeming fairytale I’ve heard with a rerun or flashback of truth after believing bits that were untrue as fantasy first! A question of a reader or a listener being in denial about the deceptions played on the self by the same self — the latter as a form of Proustian self? For fear of spoilers, I do not dare rerun this first tale here, but it involves the concept of marrying one’s own step-grandmother and the machinations of a Kingdom’s statecraft, tempting the Yew to walk. I feel as a reader it tempts Me to walk, too, into this book as a sapling Yew.
    Caveat: there is naked sex in this first tale.

    There is not always a good guy. Nor is there always a bad one. Most people are somewhere inbetween.”


    “‘A bully with charisma and top marks is still a bully.’ She sighed, annoyed. ‘He’ll probably end up Prime Minister one day. God help us all.’”

    For a book first published in 2011, that perhaps gives a new understanding, a new meaning to saplings that need excising at the root! Now too late.

    Meanwhile, Conor faces school, and the complicated emotions of budding adolescence. And Grandma’s ‘little talk’ later issues an even more complicated emotion, his missing Dad coming to visit from his new American marriage, and Mum’s ‘treatments’ now reach toward another story’s storm? — becoming even more meaningful to me having coincidentally read about an hour ago this moving story of another woman’s cuckoo in a nest?

    “No one knows about stories like Conor here.”

  7. Pingback: Inexcoriateable | The Des Lewis Gestalt Real-Time Reviews


    “His mum didn’t look great, looked even worse after five days in hospital, but she was still hopeful about the new medicine she was being given.”

    … as this particular reader is hopeful, too, preparing for his own seemingly similar ‘new medicine’ in a few weeks. And I trepidatiously search my own floors for a certain knot in the wood that might betoken an accretive incipience of a visit to me, another monster calling…
    My own grandma, too, was modern for her era of life in the 1950s and as a small boy, I did share a large house where she lived, after her divorce, with her then male partner who owned it. Nothing ever repeats itself exactly, I guess. There was nothing like the ‘Antiques Roadshow’ in those days, for example! Just ‘Mrs Dale’s Diary’.
    The arrival of Conor’s father entails his consumption of an Americano pizza, and his hearing a fatherly fobbing-off disguised as a fatherly love….

  9. “‘I’ll tell you something, Clara.  Have you ever SEEN a minute? Have you actually had one wriggling inside your hand?  Did you know if you keep your finger inside a clock for a minute, you can pick out that very minute and take it home for your own?’  So it is Paul who stealthily lifts the dome off. It is Paul who selects the finger of Clara’s that is to be guided, shrinking, then forced wincing into the works, to be wedged in them, bruised in them, bitten into and eaten up by the cogs.  ‘No you have got to keep it there, or you will lose the minute.  I am doing the counting – the counting up to sixty.’ . . . But there is to be no sixty.  The ticking stops.”
    From ‘The Inherited Clock’ (1944) by Elizabeth Bowen


    But then one day, the parson’s daughters fell sick. First the one, and then the other, with an infection that swept the countryside.
    (The sky darkened, and Conor could hear the coughing of the daughters within the parsonage, could hear the loud praying of the parson…)”

    Conor’s resentment at his father’s apparent attitude fires him up. Time will also tell what destructive forces have been set working by our co-vivid dream’s power of gestalt from each bespoke reader of this book, and from the book’s authors, and perhaps from the other authors that each reader may have read, as fiery Conor tortures a prize pendulum clock. The monster then transliterated here, with its next fabulous tale, conveying the morals of Christian parson and conscientious apothecary. An apocryphal apocalypse or something far more bespoke and targeted for the boy who created it for us by means of the authors who created him?
    Each book we read a version of the monster that calls or walks.


    “, the screaming, the emptiness—“

    As we are here to ignore what has gone on, feeling invisible as reviewer or reader, just like Conor feels invisible, and like the girls in the schoolyard “looked at their phones as if nothing in the world was wrong,…”, a sense of in-denial about what has just happened in this book that I can’t describe to you and what might yet happen to Conor’s Mum who has had her own ‘turn’….

    “Conor hadn’t written a single sentence.”

  11. Featured snippet from the web:
    The secret of Yew needles’
    Known as taxanes, they do this by disrupting the function of microtubules in our bodies, key players in the process of cell division. This capacity is invaluable when cells are cancerous and doctors are trying to halt the growth of tumours.


    “It’s not too late. It’s never too late. […] Conor remembered. What the monster had said. Belief is half of healing.”

    No tale, no lie. Yet what of those ‘wild stories’ with their intrinsic truth?
    I am moved by the hope of healing here, by accepting the monster, or fighting one monster with another monster? Horror as catharsis? See the Aickman Absolution that I posted earlier today (HERE) before reading these three chapters.

    “‘Son,’ his father said, leaning forward. ‘Stories don’t always have happy endings.’”

    “Because no, it would work,…”

  12. 0DCF8F63-9122-4548-BBD8-90B0DED4C1FE


    “The clock currently read 12.06. […]
    The clock ticked over to 12.07.”

    The earlier clock torture, the earlier bullying, the earlier invisibility … the earlier wild stories with the monster and Conor now one driving truth, all come to culmination…

    With whom does the monster walk and talk this book into current being, which of its two authors, or both, which of its readers’ reading of it, or simply (simply?) is it today the pervasive, prevailing gestalt of our times, our current ticking-clock, our current cults of polarised belief, our current invisibilities, our current propensity to bullying tumours?

  13. A NOTE
    100 YEARS

    Of Yew?
    To Croon out pleas
    Or to restore storm,
    To enter the nightmare of truth at last?
    Conor with monster again,
    Asking why no more treatments?
    Who is trying to heal whom?
    What is trying to heal what?
    Prayer crosses prayer at the still still point.
    Who passes what paper wedge of words
    As in Gambier? Lily enfolded.

    “As incredible as it seemed, time kept moving forward for the rest of the world.
    The rest of the world that wasn’t waiting.”

    …until it did start waiting? Has already started waiting, pent-up, panterrestrial?

  14. THE FOUR LAST CHAPTERS (their names redacted by the real-time reviewer)

    You did, the monster said, but you also did not.

    How can both be right, precisely at this minute or even 24/7? This convulsively compelling book eventually allows you, whether child or adult — even if simply a child adult forever — how to transcend the bullying polarisations of inner thought as well as those thoughts exterior to you that purport to control you from some centre: the polarisations of belief, of guilt, of in-denial … taking responsibility or letting go of these culminating crystallisations of nightmare’s purging truth. Making up — as well as facing — facts. Making up (such as the monstrous creation of wild stories) but also as a form of reconciliation … reconciliation within the Proustian self as well as reconciliation between separate people, people like Conor and Grandma, forever, I hope. Transcending, too, the nature of life and death. The teetering on the cliff top fingertip to fingertip (as with Sudra in another book) or the solid ground base stretching towards the endless gluey Zenoism of real-time… and the fourth tale is yours forever. The rest of it, too. The 12.07 is halfway towards forever, I guess… think about that, whether at noon or at midnight.


  15. Pingback: A Monster Calls and Walks | The Des Lewis Gestalt Real-Time Reviews

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