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  • Published: 7 January 2021
  • ISBN: 9780241988985
  • Imprint: Penguin eBooks
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 256

Fragile Monsters

A spellbinding novel of war and family betrayal set in Malaysia - The God of Small Things for our century

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?

Catherine Menon's stunning debut noveltraces 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.

  • Published: 7 January 2021
  • ISBN: 9780241988985
  • Imprint: Penguin eBooks
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 256

Praise for Fragile Monsters

Supple, artful, skilful storytelling - it takes an immediate grip on the reader's imagination and doesn't let go

Hilary Mantel

A brilliant novel about homecoming and the layered, unstable past that haunts and hurts . . . I admire it enormously

Colm Tóibín

A propulsive debut scattered with gems of fresh and surprising imagery. Menon is at her best exploring the intricate bond between women over generations, their histories strung tight over the fraught realities of a nation coming into being

Preti Taneja

A beautiful, richly textured absorbing read. I was utterly transported

Irenosen Okojie

Always here for a cross-generational family story, especially one that involves moral ambivalence

Marian Keyes selection for her PageTurners top reads

A rich and moving family history takes shape, filled with love and heartache, guilt and grief, and no end of secrets and lies . . . Gripping, compelling . . . Menon's story shows that, though time flows on, history's waves still ripple decades downstream


Menon is a sparky storyteller whose thickly atmospheric debut keeps us guessing as its many ghosts press in ever closer

Daily Mail

A beautifully written story of one Indian Malaysian family's history, entwined with secrets and hidden heartbreak . . . Fragile Monsters is a story of homecoming which illustrates the tension of returning to a past which remains painfully present . . . a cleverly-crafted family saga which explores themes of truth, belonging and shame across multiple generations

Asian Review of Books

Leavened with a brisk, dry humour, Fragile Monsters is as propulsive as any mystery, with a bewitching sense of place . . . an accomplished feat of multi-stranded storytelling

Evening Standard

An impressive debut, atmospheric and unsettling

Telegraph, 5 stars

An intriguing, fast-paced, imaginative novel

Bad Form


Tatler Malaysia

A story about love, betrayal and redemption with an electric daughter-grandmother relationship at its heart

Sheer Luxe, reading recommendation

A striking debut . . . A bold, interesting novel . . . I'm excited to see what Menon comes up with next

Sunday Times

A bravura debut novel . . . It's clever, satisfying, and often playful


This is a book saturated with the sensations of southeast Asia; where, in Menon's pungent turns of phrase, you feel as though you could "grab the air in two hands and wring it out"; where guilt can be "squatting in the room . . . stringy as spit", and where tiger princes and jungle spirits lurk amid a painful colonial past

The Times, pick of the latest fiction

Lyrically beautiful writing


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Fragile Monsters book club notes

Sweep your book club off to Malaysia with this spellbinding novel of war and family betrayal.

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