The year is 1985. Durga is visiting her grandmother Mary in rural Malaysia. It’s not a particularly happy occasion: Mary is tough and sharp-tongued, and “home” sparks bad memories for Durga.
But a fireworks accident that sends Mary to hospital begins to unravel family secrets that had been building over generations, built by both Mary and Durga.
Fragile Monsters (Viking, 2021), the debut novel by Catherine Menon, jumps between the Malaysian Emergency and the Eighties to explore themes of gender, class, and ethnicity in telling a story about a dark family history.
In this interview, Catherine and I discuss the historical setting of Fragile Monsters: a time period that normally doesn’t feature in mainstream English-language fiction. We talk about how she explores memory and shame, gender and race.
Catherine Menon is Australian-British, has Malaysian heritage and lives in London. She is a University lecturer in robotics and has both a PhD in pure mathematics and an MA in Creative Writing. Her short story collection, Subjunctive Moods, was published by Dahlia Publishing in 2018. Her short stories have won or been placed in a number of competitions, including the Fish, Bridport, Bare Fiction and Short Fiction Journal awards. Her work has been broadcast on radio, and she’s been a judge for several international short fiction competitions. Her website can be found here, and she can be followed on Twitter at @cg_menon.
Nicholas Gordon is an associate editor for a global magazine and a reviewer for the Asian Review of Books. He is also a print and broadcast commentator on local and regional politics. He can be found on Twitter at @nickrigordon.
Nicholas Gordon is a reviewer for the Asian Review of Books. In his day job, he’s a researcher and writer for a think tank in economic and sustainable development. He can be found on Twitter at @nickrigordon.