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, Catherine Menon’s debut novel, jumps between the Malayan Emergency and the 1980s 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.