There May Be a Castle hit me hard. Not since reading Watership Down or blinking through the end credits of E.T., have I been left so watery-eyed. It may just be me, of course, and the passage of time. I used to weep on only the rarest of occasions – funerals, the birth of my children, that kind of thing. (Although, while I’m in sharing mode, I have to declare that the final three minutes of this match prompted a full-on snotty, shoulder-shaking outpouring – and did the same when I watched it again days later. It still chokes me now. Tragic, I know).
But now, as I’ve tipped past forty, I find myself choking up with alarming frequency. School plays. Watching my daughter read. The first sight of a daffodil tip, creeping out of the still cool earth. New born babies. Sad things to do with animals. They all get me a bit wobbly-lipped.
And, now, you can add There May Be a Castle to the list. Mouse Mallory, a young boy lost in a snowstorm after his family car has skidded off the road, is accompanied by a host of imagined friends as he seeks his castle, risking everything to try and find help for his stranded family. The narrative switches between Mouse’s adventure, and his sister still stuck in the car – the different parts of the story are marked by a change of font but also a more significant shift from the real to the imaginary. Mouse, as he stumbles half-dreaming, half-conscious towards his Everest, grapples with his demons – the fears and doubts that inhabit us all. His struggle becomes your own.
There will be no spoilers here. Mouse may or may not reach his castle. His sister may or may not escape the crumpled wreck of the car. What I will say is that the final pages left me gasping – an ending (like A Monster Calls) which left me stunned, flicking back a page or more to read it again, not wanting it to end, not wanting Mouse’s story to leave me. And, of course, like E.T. and like Watership Down and – no higher praise – like Manchester United versus Bayern Munich in 1999, it won’t leave me; it’s now part of me forever. A beauty of a book.