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Fragile Monsters by Catherine Menon

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Fragile Monsters by Catherine Menon
UK Publication:  January 2021 (Netgalley Catch-up)
Reviewed by: Book Worm
Rating: [★★★★]

This ARC was provided by Penguin General UK (via NetGalley) in exchange for an honest review.

One word review – What? 7 Word recview WFT in a good way.

Synopsis from Goodreads:  A SPELLBINDING DEBUT NOVEL SET BETWEEN WW2 AND CONTEMPORARY MALAYSIA

Mary is a difficult grandmother for Durga to love. She is sharp-tongued and ferocious, with more demons than there are lines on her palms. When Durga visits her in rural Malaysia, she only wants to endure Mary, and the dark memories home brings, for as long as it takes to escape.

But a reckoning is coming. Stuck together in in the rising heat, both women must untangle the truth from the myth of their family’s past.What happened to Durga’s mother after she gave birth? Why did so many of their family members disappear during the war? And who is to blame for the childhood tragedy that haunts her to this day?

In her stunning debut novel Catherine Menon traces one family’s story from 1920 to the present, unravelling a thrilling tale of love, betrayal and redemption against the backdrop of natural disasters and fallen empires. Written in vivid technicolour, with an electric daughter-grandmother relationship at its heart, Fragile Monsters explores what happens when secrets fester through the generations.

As they will learn, in a place ravaged by floods, it is only a matter of time before the bones of the past emerge.

My Thoughts:  I loved this book from the opening page the writing had that certain something that I am unable to put into words but that completely transported me to Malaysia. The book moves backwards and forwards in time from 1920 (covering the years in between) to 1985 (the present day).

Going into this book I knew nothing about Malaysia so it was interesting reading about events during the war, the Japanese occupation, colonialization, devastating flooding and the fight for independence.

Mary is the ultimate unreliable narrator she tells Durga a mixture of fairy tales and family history but when the endings change on retelling instead of being embarrassed at being caught it a lie her defence is so what the story changed who cares.

I also enjoyed the little hints of magical realism and the supernatural in the narrative.

Both Durga and Mary are unlikeable as characters but the beauty of the story lies in finding what makes them this was and seeing the cracks in their defences where the sympathy of a reader can slip in.

Who would like this? I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys books about family secrets and who is interested in learning more about Malaysia and its history. Warning if you like neat endings you won’t get one.

We want to hear from you! Have you read this book? What did you think? 

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