The True Tale of the Monster Billy Dean by David Almond

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The True Tale of the Monster Billy Dean by David Almond

Category: Literary Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: A story of the aftermath of war, sin and redemption. A first novel for adults from David Almond, but still accessible by his teen readership. Bookbag loved it, despite a perhaps slightly unsatisfactory conclusion.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 272 Date: September 2011
Publisher: Viking
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 0670919055

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Longlisted for the CILIP Carnegie Medal 2013

This tale is told by 1 that died at birth by 1 that came into the world in days of endles war & at the moment of disaster... I am not cleva, so forgiv my folts and my mistayks. I am Billy Dean. This is the truth. This is my tale.

The Monster Billy Dean tells the story of Billy, a boy born into the dystopia of a war-torn town and the product of an illicit liaison between a young woman and her priest. His birth coincided with an apocalyptic bombing and his parents have hidden him away from the ruins and the catastrophe in a single room, both out of shame and in the belief that his coming into the world and surviving at such a violent moment signifies a sacred future.

There he stays until his father mysteriously disappears. And at that point, the naive and almost illiterate Billy emerges into the world under the tutelage of his mother, a kindly butcher, and a psychic. With Missus Malone, Billy communicates with the dead and discovers a gift for healing. Word spreads, and soon people are coming from far and wide, while Billy is treated as a prophet.

Is this the destiny his parents foresaw for him? Or is it a conceit? A pride? When a shadowy figure from his past appears, Billy at last comes face to face with the one who is beyond healing, the one against whom he must prevail...

This is David Almond's first novel for adults and it treads ground that will be very familiar to his legions of young fans: spirituality, magic, the darkness in organised religion, and a central character who is a young boy both threatened and tempted by violence. It's as heady and intense a mix as ever. Billy himself narrates in his illiterate but vivid way and this is another device often used by Almond. It's a risky choice and not everyone will like it, but I do. It's very personal and it drags you not just into Billy's head but right into his world, a shutaway world in which imagination plays a huge part.

It's a lovely story of the aftermath of war, of sin and of redemption, and while I was expecting a more challenging climax, I loved it. I hope Almond finds a whole new army of adult readers who can lose themselves in his world of mystery and magic.

My thanks to the good people at Viking for sending the book.

A child shut in a single room is also the central conceit in Room by Emma Donoghue. In The Island at the End of the World by Sam Taylor, the central character Finn is also naive and illiterate, and kept with his family, separated from the rest of the world.

Buy The True Tale of the Monster Billy Dean by David Almond at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The True Tale of the Monster Billy Dean by David Almond at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy The True Tale of the Monster Billy Dean by David Almond at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The True Tale of the Monster Billy Dean by David Almond at Amazon.com.


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