Audiobook review of ‘Fragile Monsters’ by Catherine Menon


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 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.

There is a real lyrical quality to Menon’s writing, and the pace and confusion of the narrative took me back to my visit to Malaysia. There are some very strong female characters in the novel, and there is a depth to their personalities. I loved the multiple tellings of Durga, Francesca and Mary’s stories, the feel of uncertainty and lasting consequences. I’d certainly be interested in reading more books by Catherine Menon in the future, and congratulate her on this debut novel.

Indira Varma is a great choice of narrator for this audiobook and her voice is warm and friendly, skilfully switching her tone for the different characters in the novel.

Thank you to Netgalley UK and Penguin Random House UK Audio for this ARC in exchange for my honest review.

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