Wednesday 6 January 2021

Review by Asha Krishna of "Fragile Monsters" by Catherine Menon

Fragile Monsters is the debut of Catherine Menon, known for her excellently crafted short stories. 

The story opens with Durga, a mathematics lecturer visiting her grandmother, Mary, in rural Malaysia after ten years. It was meant to be short visit on Diwali night, but she ends up staying longer. As the women share the same roof after many years, the story sheds light on their frictional relationship and the reasons behind it.

Durga does not remember her mother Francesca, only from what Mary told her. As she begins to question her grandmother’s version, Franscesca’s story – the connection that binds the two women – comes to fore.

The story has a strong atmospheric feel as it brings alive the tropical heat days, rain splashed roofs and the swinging palm trees as well as the clinical, academic corridors of Canada where Durga had been living for the last ten years.

Swinging between the past and present, the narrative reveals the story of the family and the country as the women navigate the murky waters of the past.

It is the narrative technique that elevates the story to another level. Catherine’s strength is her ability to paint a complex world with a few strokes. As a mathematician herself, she skilfully employs the format of a theorem to the story. It is an interesting device that pairs beautifully with lines like the one Mary says to Durga: “You want it to be right and not true.” It highlights the complexity of truth depending upon who is saying it. 

Read this novel for its atmospheric feel, complex characters and a layered narrative. They work well here to create an immersive experience for the reader.

About the reviewer
Writer, Mum, Craft-crazy. Asha Krishna was one of the mentees on the Middleway Mentoring Scheme in Leicester. Her fiction and articles have been published in print and online.  She tweets as @ashkkrish.

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