Tuesday 19 October 2021

Book Review: Scary Monsters by Michelle de Kretser (Contemporary/Literary Fiction)

Title: Scary Monsters
Author: Michelle de Kretser
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Publication Date: October 2021
Format: Paperback
Genre: Contemporary/Literary Fiction
Source: ARC from Publisher

Michelle de Kretser's electrifying take on scary monsters turns the novel upside down - just as migration has upended her characters' lives.

Lili's family migrated to Australia from Asia when she was a teenager. Now, in the 1980s, she's teaching in the south of France. She makes friends, observes the treatment handed out to North African immigrants and is creeped out by her downstairs neighbour. All the while, Lili is striving to be A Bold, Intelligent Woman like Simone de Beauvoir.

Lyle works for a sinister government department in near-future Australia. An Asian migrant, he fears repatriation and embraces 'Australian values'. He's also preoccupied by his ambitious wife, his wayward children and his strong-minded elderly mother. Islam has been banned in the country, the air is smoky from a Permanent Fire Zone, and one pandemic has already run its course.

Three scary monsters - racism, misogyny and ageism - roam through this mesmerising novel. Its reversible format enacts the disorientation that migrants experience when changing countries changes the story of their lives. With this suspenseful, funny and profound book, Michelle de Kretser has made something thrilling and new.


Scary Monsters was an interesting and thought-provoking read that included themes of racism, misogyny and ageism. I personally enjoyed Lili's story most, and I think part of that was the fact that, in comparison to the Lyle narrative, it introduced its themes and messages more subtly. That didn't lessen their impact in any way, but I felt less preached at while reading Lili's story than I did while reading Lyle's. I also engaged more with Lili as a character. The issues de Kretser raises in this work are all important ones, and I think Scary Monsters highlights them in a way that is engaging as a story while also offering food for thought. De Kretser's prose style is easy reading, so this is also a book you can move through at a good pace. For me, it was a four-star read.

I received this book as a free ARC from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. 

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