I seem to have had the good fortune to have read a whole stream of really good books, and very varied good books, and just when I thought I had fallen into a bit of a slough – as I mentioned a couple of days ago, I have just finished an absolutely fabulous, stonker of a great read. I stayed up till nearly three last night, then was reading it again by seven this morning… and finished it. I literally could not put it down.

‘Beast’ by Chris Speck is an extraordinary story set in present day Hull; the main character, Tony is a fifteen year old boy recently bereaved, orphaned by the death of his father. I don’t want to say too much about his situation or what happens to him, I would rather you read it and gradually unpeel layer after layer of what happens to him, the challenges he faces and how he confronts them. His main support is his local boxing club in which his father was also very involved. You may guess by the title and the front cover that a beast also is a character and it has a profound affect on Tony, and whose mysterious presence leads him to make certain decisions and take certain actions in the face of a merciless enemy. 

As you can guess from how compelled I was to read it, it’s utterly gripping, exciting, moving, very sad, absorbing and despite being almost fantastical in some ways, seems very realistic. What a great writer Chris Speck is, no single word is wasted and he weaves tiny details through the narrative – some play an important part in the story, some just add to the power of later scenes. 

Recently I complained about a writer who had made little effort to bring his characters to life and create realistic and believable characters; it’s obvious that Chris has closely observed, listened to and connected with a whole variety of real people in order to create such believable heroes, villains and ordinary, everyday folk doing the best with their struggles in life. Tiny little details – the clothes a group of lads are wearing, the jumper a little boy’s mother has bought him, the sounds, the smells, the voices, the location – it was as if I was watching a film it’s so vivid. The characters are nuanced, faceted, even Tony is complex – which isn’t always the case with the main character. The heroes are not prefect, the villains are horribly believable, violent, corrupt, immoral – and I didn’t really know whether Tony would win against them or not – I’m not going to reveal what happens to him, read it and find out!

As I mentioned, I’ve read some stunningly good books, but honestly, this tops the list!


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