Monday, 10 October 2011

Review: The True Tale of the Monster Billy Dean - David Almond

Published: 1st September 2011, Puffin
Pages: 256 pages, hardback
Series/standalone?: Standalone
Acquired: Purchased myself

Summary (from Goodreads): I wos a secrit shy and tungtied emptyheded thing. I wos tort to read and rite and spell by my tenda littl muther & by Mr McCaufrey the butcha & by Missus Malone and her gosts. So I am not cleva, so please forgiv my folts and my mistayks. I am the won that glares into your harts & that prowls insyde yor deepist dremes.

My review: I've been an absolutely huge fan of David Almond since my second year of university, when I read Skellig as part of my Writing for Young People module. I fell in love with his lyrical style of writing and intense attention to detail that really helps to bring his remarkable characters to life. I adored Finding Mina as well and I was so, so excited about The True Tale of the Monster Billy Dean.

Honestly, I pined for this book for months. I'm not even joking. I heard him read an extract at the Puffin Media Presentation in January this year and I'd been waiting for it ever since - nine months is a long time to wait, people. I could have made a BABY in the time I've been desperate for this book. I could also have grown my hair four and a half inches longer or my fingernails an inch longer - just three things you can do over the course of nine months.

But I digress.

When my beautiful hardback copy of The True Tale of the Monster Billy Dean plopped onto my welcome mat a couple of weeks ago I actually did a raging happy dance. I swear down, I am absolutely obsessed with this book. It consumed my thoughts and I found myself thinking about it non-stop - I just wanted to read it all the time. But then I was torn - I wanted to read it slowly and enjoy it, too. I wanted to savour each word and draw out the delicious process of reading a masterpiece for the very first time. In the end I read a few chapters a night and limited myself to that. I finished the book an hour or so ago and, let me tell you, it completely blew my mind. We're talking Patrick Ness proportions here!

The True Tale of the Monster Billy Dean is one of the most extraordinary books I've read in a very, very long time. It's certainly the most unique. I love everything about it. I love Billy. I love his innocence, his intelligence, the way he sees the world slightly differently to everybody else, the way he finds beauty in destruction and horror. I love Billy's mother, Missus Malone and Mr McCaufrey. Every single character in this story is perfectly sculpted and so real. I could see Missus Malone so clearly in my head - if this one is ever adapted for the screen Julie Walters has absolutely got to play her.

Magical realism is such a hard genre to define and an even harder one to write - David Almond is the master of magical realism and The True Tale of the Monster Billy Dean is another home run for him. In fact, it's out of the ball park. The sheer amount of love and care that's gone into this story is clear - this feels like more than a book, it's a story that will draw you in and you won't be able to resist being pulled into Billy's bleak but beautiful world.

I absolutely recommend this book to all of you, regardless of your preferred genre - David Almond is a writer whose books are universally adored and for very good reason. You need to hear Billy Dean's story.

First line: 'This tail is told by I that died at birth by I that came into the world in days of endles war & at the moment of disaster.'

Read if you liked…: The Knife of Never Letting Go - Patrick Ness, Room - Emma Donoghue

Plot: 4/5
Writing: 5/5
Characters: 4/5
Cover: 5/5
Total: 18/20 (A)


  1. I've had a proof copy of this book for about 6 weeks now, and I'm just not sure still. I LOVED it when we heard David Almond read from it, but I found reading the actual words harder than I'd expected. But after reading your review, I think I shall give it another chance and persist..

  2. Okay. I saw this book and was like 'I want' because it looks like its going to be something special but I walked away.

    Now I shall be reading it. Especially if it is compared to Ness (God himself) :D


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