Scary Monsters – Michelle De Krester

Scary Monsters – Michelle De Krester

I have read other books by Michelle De Krester, so I was keen to read this one when I saw it in my local book shop. It is double-sided, you read one side and then flip it over and read the other. I don’t think you need to read a particular side first.

Here’s the blurb …

‘When my family emigrated it felt as if we’d been stood on our heads.’

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.

‘Which comes first, the future or the past?’ 

I think this book consists of two novellas and the linking theme is living in a place that is not your place of birth. One of the stories is set in the future and one in the past. I liked them both, but my favourite would be Lilli’s story (the one set in the past). I think that’s because she was young, living in France and it all seemed a bit of an adventure. Lyle’s story (the other version) was funnier – I liked the references to trying to be more Australian, but also more upsetting – the future is not a particularly pleasant place and it all seemed plausible: 50+ temperatures in Melbourne, Australia’s unclimate policy, etc.

It is beautifully written and engaging.

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